- Aye Min Soe
Since the deadly October-9 attacks on the border outposts in northern Rakhine, tensions are high between the two communities and both communities are afraid. There is fear. There is mistrust.
In Rakhine, it is not just the Muslims who are nervous and worried. The Rakhines are worried too. They are worried about the fact that they are shrinking as a Rakhine population, percentage-wise.
At a time when we should find a way of breaking down the barriers of fear and mistrust and assist in building trust between the two communities, international communities should not concentrate on the negative side of the situation.
In fact, since after the conflicts in 2012, Rakhine has been a peaceful and tranquil state where no religious persecution or clashes between different communities occurred until the 9th of October when around 400 violent attackers carried out their coordinated surprise attacks on three border outposts in northern Rakhine.
During the interrogations, two captured prisoners confessed that the attacks on Maungtaw Township have been systematically planned in advance over a long period of time, assisted by foreign funding and supported by members of foreign terrorist organizations.
The attacks were carried out by the Aqa Mul Mujahidin organization which is active in Maungtaw, and is linked to the RSO terrorist groups. The leader of the Aqa Mul Mujahidin is Havistoohar, a religious and social extremist.
To be able to bring the conflict areas under control, the government designated the areas as “military operations area” on the day that armed attackers carried out the 9/10 incidents and imposed curfew under section 144.
The government has formed the Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State chaired by the State Counsellor Daw Aung San Su Kyi since 30th May 2016 to tackle the issue.
Moreover, the Government is striving to find a peaceful resolution of the problem by establishing the Rakhine State Advisory Commission led by Mr. Kofi Annan.
An Investigation Commission led by Vice President U Myint Swe has also been formed and has already started it work. The commission conducted field trips to meet the Muslim communities and probed into the reports of alleged rapes and the killing of Muslim children in the village of Kyetyoepyin in Maungtaw that had been reported in the UK newspaper The Guardian. All those who were questioned and told of the allegations in the Guardian newspaper said that the report was not true and that the alleged cases had not taken place in the village.
Furthermore, aid and relief supplies have been provided quite a few times for local people living in Maungtaw.
Humanitarian aid and assistance have been given by such authorities as the Ministry of Social Welfare, Relief and Resettlement, Ministry of Border Affairs, Rakhine State Government and such international organizations as UNHCR and WFP, and local volunteers and donors since 4th November. Additional assistance and relief supplies are being continuously supplied to the villages which are in need.
The media and international community should be very careful whether the information related to human rights abuses in the northern Rakhine come from reliable sources or not. Or, they are just aggravating the situation.
In terms of free media opportunity, independent journalists including local and international press agencies have been allowed to take a tour of Maungtaw region from 19th to 22nd December.
Peace is the only way to normalize the situation and it will certainly take time to bring about a situation when communities can co-exist peacefully.