By NYAN HLAING LYNN | FRONTIER
NAY PYI TAW — Leaders of the Arakan National Party held talks with Commander-in-Chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing on Wednesday ahead of a key debate in the Amyotha Hluttaw about security in conflict-hit Rakhine State.
The unprecedented meeting between a political party delegation and the head of the armed forces came just a day after the ANP wrote to the military requesting the talks. Seven ANP lawmakers, led by chairman Dr Aye Maung, took part in the discussion.
“The situation in Rakhine State is extremely worrying. Rakhine ethnics are being displaced. We told [the military] our concerns,” Pyithu Hluttaw lawmaker U Oo Hla Saw (ANP, Mrauk-U) said after the meeting.
“We told them our views on regional security and maintaining territory and the Tatmadaw told us what they are doing,” he added. “We learned that the Tatmadaw has a decisive attitude towards increasing security forces so as to ensure that national sovereignty is not damaged, or territory lost.”
The ANP demanded the talks because it believes only the Tatmadaw has the ability to tackle the security issues, Oo Hla Saw said.
But he confirmed that there was no discussion of putting Rakhine State under martial law, and the military was non-committal on the ANP proposal to train and equip local militias comprising members of recognised ethnic groups, such as the Rakhine and Mro.
Another attendee, Amyotha Hluttaw lawmaker U Wai Sein Aung (ANP, Rakhine-1), said that the military made clear that its position on Rakhine State was not different from that of the government.
The Tatmadaw released a statement in which it said the two sides discussed collaboration “in order to make Rakhine State stable and developed”.
Also on Wednesday, the Amyotha Hluttaw approve a proposal submitted by U Khin Maung Latt (ANP, Rakhine State-3) to detain and prosecute terrorists active in Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships of northern Rakhine State. The proposal also called on the government to provide enough security so that recognised ethnic minorities who have been forced to flee due to the threat of violence are able to return to their homes. The proposal is likely to be debated in the coming week.
The decision to allow debate represents an about-face from the National League for Democracy, which has used its control of the national legislature to repeatedly block ANP attempts to put conflict-related issues on the parliament agenda. Five previous proposals in the Pyithu Hluttaw and Amyotha Hluttaw since the NLD took power in early 2016 have been rejected.
It comes at a time of heightened tension in Rakhine State, after seven ethnic Mro Buddhists were killed in the Mayu mountains on the border between Rathedaung and Maungdaw townships. Another person remains missing.
The government has blamed the attacks on the insurgent group calling itself Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, which in October 2016 launched surprise attacks on Border Guard Police posts in northern Rakhine State.
The State Counsellor’s Office said in a statement that when security forces went to Out Nan Yar village in Rathedaung Township to detain suspects in relation to the killing of the Mro villagers, they came under attacked from 600 people.