- Written By Aye Chan
On October 9, terrorists made a surprise armed attacks on Koetangauk and Ngakhura police outposts of No 1/ border guard control police in Kyikanpyin, Maungtaw Township, Rakhine State, killing some policemen and looting firearms and ammunition. Tatmataw and Myanmar Police Force are combined to investigate and arrest those involved in the armed attacks, to recapture the looted firearms and concurrently to restore the area to peaceful and stable state, in accord with rules and laws.
In doing so, there were further armed attacks, claiming some government troops in the attacks. Security forces are still investigating the attackers under the provisions of laws with those involved in committing crimes have action taken, and investigation of suspects underway. Simultaneously, those found innocent were released. As for the government of the State, investigation committee was formed with the intention of reporting to the government after enquiring on the ground as to whether there were violations of human rights in the region as alleged by some organizations from home and abroad, to find out actual situations in Rakhine State and for similar occurrences not to take place in the region in future. It is being found that the so-called teams and committee went to the conflict area to meet and interview persons in question and those involved in the incidents, and they released information about their finding, made press conferences and replied to the questions raised by the media.
While making efforts to peacefully solve the problem from the government side, terrorists and their supportive organisations from abroad posted false news and information on social website and internet by spreading rumors and instigative propaganda. Some media are spreading invented stories and rumors full of one-sided allegations by violating media ethics. As the false news are likely to make conflicts prolonged and increased, it is necessary to make known to all, about the exaggerated and instigative stories, being created by destructive elements. It is incumbent upon us to protect from the danger of destructive elements.
The State Counsellor’s Information Committee is releasing news and information about the actual situations, and concurrently informing that alleged information was false. Similarly, it was found that Tatmataw News Release Committee was informing the true news as well. Yet, public including foreign media were not accessible to the conflict areas freely as the time was a period of launching operations.
Organizations and media groups from home and abroad demanded for the permission to go there freely for news coverage and to have an access to publicize the true news. They may have not been given permission to go to the conflict areas as they may have experienced dangers in time of fighting and launching operations. On the other hand, the Tatmataw has the responsibility to defend the security of individuals including media. For these restrictions, media groups did not have an access to visit the conflict areas, but they could manage to go any places where public were allowed to go.
From December 19 to December 23, a news media group comprising journalists from home and abroad, was allowed to go there for news coverage by the government. It is learnt that some were not included in the group because of the situation of security. Whatever it is, the trip can be optimistically said to be a beneficial one as it can share actual situations on the ground to the public and the world.
According to the disclosure and statements made by correspondents from local and foreign news media that took information in the conflict areas, they had been in those areas to ask freely locals whom they wanted to question and they had no restrictions to their interrogations whereas locals answered freely. They disclosed that situations on the ground were found to have been totally different from public sayings being heard outside. They said they would describe the news as found in reality.
As per the statements made by some responsible officials and both sides from local communities, allegations of some media from abroad were false, and some were exaggerated as they wished, thus the fact led to misunderstanding of international organizations. They also said, “There urgently needs to be rule of law and security in the area. Abiding by law and stability of the area can bring about understanding between each other and peaceful co-existence. Investigation processes are underway in accord with rules and laws. Hospitals are also giving treatment and care regardless of race and religion. We do not want any terrorist attacks and we want to live in peace. There are no restrictions to international organizations’ donations. We want to live in peace and stability with all different believers.”
It is hoped that the media groups that went to the places where the armed attacks took place for news coverage will make true information known to our people and overseas organizations so that they will be well convinced of the truth by distinguishing true news from rumors. This is a responsibility for a journalist to conduct as the media ethic. There were two remarkable facts noticed during this trip.
The first one is that a voluntary librarian of the village library who disclosed media men that the government troops and police forces did not commit any offences of rapes, arsons and forced arrests was killed. On their way to Ngakhura village, a place of conflicts, in the evening of December 21 for news coverage on the ground, media men interrogated the voluntary librarian named “Duz Mamad (a) Shunarmyar
about his knowledge about events, at the office of village administrator and on the street of Ngakhura (middle) village. He asserted that there were no offences of rapes, arsons and forced arrests committed by Tatmataw troops and police forces, apart from Rohingha agitation activities.
It was reported to authorities concerned that Duz Mamad (a) Shunarmyar did not arrive back home from going outside in the same evening after replying to the questions raised by correspondents. On the afternoon of 23 December, his decapitated body was found in the creek of Sabeibinyin, with two stabbed wounds each on both of the thighs, it is learnt.
Whatever it is, this incident highlights that there are still dangers of destructive elements in carrying out works for security, peace and stability in the area. It is as if warning that attempts were made to get news and information on one side, and simultaneously there existed dangers for disclosing the truth on the other side. The victim was reported to be an Islam believer. Terrorists seemed to get rid of him for saying what they did not want. It is tantamount to threatening others that they will also be subject to such a brutal killing if they dare do like Duz Mamad. From this happening, media men wanting to get news as well as those who want to disclose the truth may have lessons to take. This may be assumed to be a challenge of making rights to get news & information difficult.
The second noticeable one is that it was found the only woman created rumors about rapes, telling a story now and saying another the next time.
Investigation commission on Rakhine State led by Vice-President U Myit Swe went to Maungtaw region to investigate incidents from December 11 to 13 December. During the trip, Dr Thet Thet Zin, member of the commission and chairwoman of Women Affairs Organization, and members met with villagers including children to inquire whether there were rape cases to women in the village.
On the afternoon of December 11, commission members separately met with a woman named Ma Jamarlihar in the village of Pyaungpaik to ask her in detail as o whether she herself and other women in the village were raped. She replied that she herself was not raped and others were neither raped nor learnt to have been raped.
Yet, on the arrival of the media group at the village of Pyaungpaik, during the interview with Ma Jamarlihar residing in Pyaungpaik and Daw Than Than (a) Ma Norjan of Ngarsarkyu village, Ma Jamarlihar said that she was raped by security forces.
Due to the statement, authorities concerned went to Pyaungpaik village on December 22 to discover the truth, to take action against those who committed crimes, if ever and to defend the victim. According to village elders and responsible persons, the above said Ma Jamarlihar and Daw Than Than did not live in Pyaungpaik. Upon receipt of the information that they lived in Ngarsarkyu village, they were summoned to be questioned. Instead, they were learnt to have avoided meeting with authorities. Ma Jamarlihar’s neighbors—Abu Bawsho, Manulnat and head of hundred households were interrogated about their knowledge, they replied that news of rapes was false and they had never heard about such cases. And they said they knew nothing why she told reporters she had been raped.
It is evident that false news and rumors are being fabricated intentionally. It was found that these are being made as directed by those of influence behind locked doors. Obviously, they are attempting to put pressure on the government, by instigating armed conflicts in the country, so that the government will be criticized by international community.
In conclusion, Rakhine Affairs is a politically sensitive issue, thus to be dealt with sobriety. Yet, it is necessary to solve carefully for similar occurrences not to take place in future. As it is, it is clear that there are still control, manipulation and support from behind. It may be difficult to hinder destructive activities of sparking riots. But foreign countries and international organizations should not conduct activities of ignition over the current incidents any longer. Likewise, as for residents co-existing peacefully with each other on the same land and devout believers need to be careful about instigative activities of destructive elements. We hereby call for all to avoid writing invented stories and spreading rumors, and to cooperate in unity for the revival of peace, stability and development of Rakhine State.
(Translated by Khin Maung Oo)