Myanmar now denies Rakhine training non-Muslim force

Rakhine gov't spokesman had earlier stated that police were planning to train non-Muslim residents as regional police

Myanmar now denies Rakhine training non-Muslim force

World Bulletin / News Desk

Claims by Rakhine State officials to have begun training and arming a non-Muslim militia-like force in a predominantly Rohingya Muslim area have been refuted by a senior government official.

At a meeting in political capital Nay Pyi Taw, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Aung Soe denied ongoing media reports that the force is being formed in Rakhine to protect the community from insurgents.

The denial was one of two published Saturday in what appears to be an attempt by authorities to control media coverage of violence in a region which has seen anything between 86 and 150 people killed since Oct. 9.

“There is no plan to establish Regional police in Rakhine State and in other regions and states as well,” Aung Soe was quoted by state media as saying Saturday.

“However, to reinforce the country’s police force, the Myanmar Police Force has a plan to recruit new members in the regions and states."

Earlier this month, a spokesman for the Rakhine regional government said that police "are" planning to train non-Muslim residents as “regional police”.

“We have started recruiting regional police in the area,” Min Aung said, adding that around 100 men aged 18 to 30 years old had enrolled for the first batch of training in state capital Sittwe.

“After a four-month training period, they will serve under the command of the Border Guard Police Forces."

Similar comments were carried widely in other global media, and international human rights groups subsequently called on the government to intervene.

On Nov. 5, Matthew Smith, chief executive officer at Bangkok-based Fortify Rights, described the move as “highly inadvisable and dangerous".

“If the government wants to improve security, it should take urgent action to protect members of all races and religions and immediately provide free and unfettered access to aid groups."

On Saturday, the state also claimed that an inquiry into news reports by Reuters news agency that nearly 200 people fleeing Myanmar had been arrested and repulsed by Bangladesh border guards "had been found to be false".

"Such events never happened, it is learnt," the News Information Committee of the State Counsellor’s Office said in a statement.

On Friday, a Rohingya community elder had claimed that members of the Muslim ethnic group were now fleeing Rakhine State in fear of a military crackdown that followed the deaths of nine border police officers Oct. 9.

“We heard some were arrested while crossing the river to reach Bangladesh,” the man told Anadolu Agency, referring to the Naf River on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border.

Speaking on condition of anonymity due to fear of reprisal, he said he was unable to confirm how many were arrested and how many had reached the neighboring country.

The refutals come as global cries for a fair and balanced probe into ongoing violence in the region continue.

Since an armed group launched fatal attacks on police stations in Norther Rakhine last month, the government has said at least 86 people -- 17 soldiers and 69 alleged "attackers" (among them two women) -- have been killed, while Rohingya groups claim that the number killed in the last weekend alone could be as high as 150 civilians.

At least 337 people have now been detained for alleged involvement in the attacks.

There has been no independent verification of the attacks or arrests as access to the affected area near the Bangladesh border has been under Myanmar military control since Oct. 9.

On Friday, State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi’s Office announced a national-level investigation commission will be formed soon to probe the ongoing attacks in Maungdaw Township.

The comments were made after a meeting to implement peace, stability and development in the area.

“The commission will submit a report based on its findings in the investigation and will also give suggestions for the prevention of such kind of attacks in the future,” the state-run Global News Light of Myanmar newspaper reported.

Last Mod: 19 Kasım 2016, 16:20
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