Authorities in western Myanmar’s violence-torn Rakhine state have charged more than 500 local Muslims and deemed 1,300 others fugitives for their alleged involvement in deadly attacks on border patrolmen in the state’s three northern townships last October, Rakhine’s attorney general said on Friday.
A total of 521 people, including five children, have been detained, though one of the five died during his trial, said attorney general General U Kyauk. No details were given about what caused the boy’s death.
The trials of the other children have either been completed or are in progress, he said.
Trials of some of the adults who have been charged will be held at the courthouses in Maungdaw township and in Rakhine’s capital Sittwe, he said.
Officials did not describe the specifics charges made against them.
A shadowy militant group claiming to represent Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya community carried out raids on border guard stations in October 2016 that killed nine border patrol officers.
Afterwards, government soldiers swept into the northern Rakhine townships of Maungdaw, Buthidaung, and Rathedaung to hunt down hundreds of others suspected of involvement in the raids during a four-month security operation.
During a meeting of the Rakhine parliament, state lawmaker Tun Aung Thein said three ethnic Rakhine people have been killed and five others have been missing since the attacks last October.
“We can’t investigate how many extremists and terrorists from outside we have in our country,” Tun Aung Thein said. “That’s why people have become worried. Those from villages in Maungdaw township have been moving out of their villages, while others are considering moving out.”
On high alert
Earlier last week, soldiers were put on high alert in Maungdaw following the departure of about 200 Rakhine Buddhist villagers from the township after a string of local killings.
The move came after Myanmar security forces last week killed three men while clearing a suspected Rohingya insurgent training camp in a mountain range in the Maungdaw-Buthidaung township area where tunnels, weapons, huts, rations, and training materiel were discovered during a two-day security clearance operation.
State lawmaker Maung Ohn said that though more security forces have been assigned to Maungdaw town, they are more urgently needed in the villages surrounding the town.
“If we lose the villages [to insurgents], we will lose Maungdaw too,” he said.
Rakhine state lawmaker Kyaw Zaw Oo said local authorities have asked the central government several times for additional security for the area, but their requests have not been fully met.
“We have submitted many proposals and held meetings with government authorities, but their response to this issue has been very weak,” he said.
“We don’t know if they are intentionally not responding to it or if they don’t want to take responsibility for it,” Kyaw Zaw Oo said.
“If they don’t effectively address this issue … we will face the possibility of losing our territory as we lost it in the past,” he said, in a reference to Muslim insurgents who took control of land in Rakhine decades ago.
Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.