General Mya Tun Oo answering questions raised by journalists at the press conference.
Photos of the events are displayed at the press conference.
Nay Pyi Taw March 1
The Tatmadaw held a press conference on the terrorist attacks against outposts of Myanmar Police Force-MPF in Maungtaw region, Rakhine State, in October 2016 and insurgent attacks in Mongkoe region in northeast Shan State in November the same year at Bayintnaung Villa here at 2 pm yesterday.
Present on the occasion were Chief of the General Staff (Army, Navy and Air) General Mya Tun Oo, senior military officers of the Office of the Commander-in-Chief (Army), Deputy Minister for Defence Maj-Gen Myint Nwe, MPF officials, members of Myanmar Media Council, Myanmar Journalist Association, Foreign Correspondents Club and Myanmar Journalist Network, and reporters of local news agencies and locally-based foreign news agencies.
As regards the Mongkoe incident occurred in November 2016, General Mya Tun Oo recounted the historical background of the region explaining the use of the region as its northeast military region by Burma Communist Party-BCP which was active there since 1967, the defeat of BCP at the Battle of CiciwanTarpan in 1986 of Laukkai clashes in 2009, the Tatmadaw’s counterattacks to crush the combined attack of KIA/ MNDAA/TNLA/AA/SSA (Wanhai) at Laukkai region in 2015.
The general explained the attempts of about 1,000 KIA/MNDAA/ TNLA members as a united front to resettle in Kokang area and to set up a base area in Mongkoe and Phaungsai region in October 2016, synchronised forceful surprise attacks against Tatmadaw outposts at Mongkoe, Phaungsai, Mankan and Kyugok (Pansang) and Muse military and police outposts and 105-mile trade zone on 20 November 2016, the blockage of Lashio-Muse Road, the blowing up of roads and bridges, deaths and injuries of innocent people due to heavy weapon attacks, random light weapon attacks and mine attacks, and the losses faced by the State and the people resulting from the temporary halt in border trade due to armed attacks against the 105-mile trade zone and disturbances and blockages made on the Lashio-Muse Union Highway through multiple means.
He went on to explain the Tatmadaw’s shouldering of military and security duties in a balanced way to safeguard sovereignty and territory of the State, restore regional peace and stability, ensure secure life for local people, and protect the State administrative machinery, efforts to restore border trade after re-controlling Lashio-Muse Union Highway on November 26, the crushing of the much superior encompassing insurgent forces at at the hands of the Tatmadaw’s counterattack, the seizure of the region by Kokang group in 1989, the problem between Pheung group and Yang group at Mongkoe in 1992, armed power struggles within the Mongkoe defence troops at Special Region 1 in 2000, the occurrence Mongkoe with full gallantry, the services of Tatmadaw to help local people and restore Mongkoe during and after the battle, and the current peaceful situation of Mongkoe. He then assured the Tatmadaw’s participation to ensure a straight march on the path to multi-party democracy and continued efforts to restore peace with cent per cent enthusiasm, adding, democracy practice does not accept armed conflicts or armed aggression, Nationwide Ceasefi re Agreement-NCA should be signed to totally stop all armed clashes and restore eternal peace, peace door is opened for the participation of all stakeholders in the peace process, and invitations are extended to take part in the process on equal terms.
The general explained Tatmadaw’s strenuous efforts to prevent smuggling of the country’s resources and its actions against drug production and dealings. He said that Tatmadaw and concerned authorities seized jade (estimated over 21 tons) hided in radiators and in chassis of the trucks smuggling jade from Kachin State’s Hpakant on February 9, 2017. On January 13, and 18, surveillance aircrafts spotted log heaps and trucks at the border of Kachin State and northern Shan State, and Tatmadaw columns conducted clearance operations and seized 427 tons of various kinds of logs, 75 trucks, eight saw mills, and four powered schooners. In 2016, Tatmadaw seized opium, heroine, marijuana and stimulant tablets worth over Ks-163.63 billion in 2016. Likewise in January, 2017, Tatamadaw seized 5.39 kilograms of heroin, 1.9 kilograms of raw opium, 0.03 kilograms of opium oil, and 130,000 Yaba pills, worth Ks-1.22 billion. On February 26, 2017, it also seized 6,500,000 Yaba pills worth around Ks-6.05 billion were seized near Bawa Thanthayar Bridge in Heho Township.
With regard to Maungtaw terrorist attack in Rakhine State, he explained illegal migration of Bengalis from Bangladesh and Chittagong into Rakhine State since British colonial period; the mass exodus of Bengalis again from Bangladesh to expand farming in 1869; and bringing of Bengalis from Chittagong in 1861 to build Buthidaung-Maungtaw railroad and their consequent unlawful settlement in the area after completion of the railroad; British’s provision of weapons to Bengalis in Rakhine State on the pretext of self-defense while they were leaving for Bangladesh through Rakhine State toward the end of Second World War; and Bengalis’ assaults, arson attacks, and killings of Rakhine ethnic village with those weapons, the outbreak of Alel Than Kyaw incident in 1942 in which over 20,000 Rakhine ethnic people were killed and other ethnicities were forced to flee from Buthidaung and Maungtaw to towns like Sittwe; Bengali politicians’ failed attempt to include India’s Assam State and Myanmar’s Buthidaung-Maungtaw (May Yu region) in East Pakistan [present day Bangladesh] during the years before official establishment of India and Pakistan.
With regard to increased Bengali population in Rakhine State, the general said that according to population census under the British colonial rule, the population was 58,225 in 1872, 193,884 in 1901, and 217,800 in 1931. And the population of Rakhine State according to 2014 population census is 3,188,807, of which Bengalis are 1, 090,000 or 34 percent of the population. Bengalis make up 90 percent of the population in Buthidaung and 97 percent of population in Maungtaw.
Bengalis in Rakhine State initiated Mujahid movement since 1947, said the general. They held Muslim Conference in the village of Alel Than Kyaw in Maungtaw Township in 1951 and sent an open letter to the government, asking it to establish the northern Rakhine State as Independent Muslim State as soon as possible. Bengalis resumed Mujahid movement in 1966, with the intention of establishing the entire western areas of Maungtaw, Buthidaung, and Yathedaung townships as a country with the name of Arkistan. However, because of offensives by the Tatmadaw, their movement collapsed in 1974 and they fled to the neighboring country, he explained.
He also explained violence and conflicts between Rakhine and Bengali communities in such townships as Sittwe, Maungtaw, Buthidaung, Mrauk-U, Pauktaw, Minbya due to raping and killing of Rakhine Buddhist woman Ma Thida Htwe living in Thabyaychaung Village, Yanbye Township of Rakhine State by three Bengalis on May 28, 2012. He also explained terrorist attacks in Maungtaw, saying that around 180 Bengali terrorists attacked Kyikanpyin border guard police headquarters at 1.30 am, Koetankauk police outpost in Yathedaung Township at 3.30 am, and Ngakhuya police outpost at 4.30 am on October 9, 2016 with guns, swords, spears and arrow-shooting slingshots (jingali). In the attacks, 9 police were killed, six police and a police’s wife, and a civilian were injured and 67 units of assorted arms and ammunitions were lost, he said. He also explained joint area clearance operations by the army and police to arrest attackers and recover looted arms and ammunitions, massive counterattacks by Bengali terrorists as well their arson attacks and accusing of innocent civilians as government informant and killing them. As a result, 963 buildings were reduced to ashes, 18 innocent civilians were killed and injured in 17 villages, he said.
These terrorist attacks were planned by the AqaMul Mujahidin group operating in Maungtaw by having links with RSO. The group leader is Hamid Kuhar, 45, from Kyaukpyinseik Village, Maungtaw Township, who completed a sixmonth training along with Taliban in Pakistan. He spread propaganda with video files via social media to continue terrorist acts in the region. A total of 744 Bengalis involved in the attacks were arrested but 68 released later as they did not get involved. Among the arrestees, 127 received punishment, 541 are being detained for questioning and eight died of their diseases.
Plans were made to round up and send 386 service personnel, education staff and their families in Buthidaung and Maungtaw who had difficulty with returning home due to the Bengali attacks by Tatmadaw helicopter to downtown Buthidaung for further arrangements for returning home. The Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services himself visited the villages of Maungtaw Township. He encouraged the Tatmadawmen, border guard police force members and their families and people’s militiamen and provided them with foodstuffs and consumer goods.
Some foreign media and organizations are making lop-sided reports about the Maungtaw incident. They accuse security troops of violating human rights on the Bengalis, the Myanmar government of repeatedly failing to grant free visits to the suffering Bengalis and investigations. Moreover, protests are being staged by governments of some countries, party organizations and Bengalis outside the country in front of Myanmar embassies. Then, the clarification continued on the formation of an investigation committee under the leadership of Vice President (1) by the President’s Office, an advisory commission for Rakhine State affairs with former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Myanmar nationals and international figures by the State Counsellor’s Office and an investigation group under the leadership of the police adjutant general by Myanmar Police Force in order to expose the truth about the issue of Rakhine State and rebut the accusations against the security forces.
The terrorists still have the guns they made off with from the police outposts while hand-made bombs, home-made guns and other weapons are still being seized. From 2011 to 2015, Rakhine State saw 224 seizures of narcotic drugs worth Ks-11.1 billion. The year 2016 alone saw 61 seizures worth Ks-54.56 billion. So, the drug menace in the state seems tremendous. It is therefore necessary to take time to ensure community peace, tranquility and the rule of law. The Tatmadaw carried out stability operation step by step in the northern part of Rakhine State. Besides, combat and preventive measures against terrorists are being taken based on legitimacy, necessity, proportionality and use of force and firearms in line with the existing laws, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights-UDHR and International Humanitarian Law-IHL. Depending on the level of regional stability, the Tatmadaw brought down stability operation to Level-2 on January 1, 2017. Mainly, Myanmar Police Force and township/village administrative authorities have been working to effectively bring about regional stability, rule of law and regional development works as well as ensure normal functioning of administrative mechanism and public services like hospitals and schools, with the cooperation and support from the Tatmadaw. The Tatmadaw has stopped regional stability operation since February 1, 2017. Currently, the Ministry of Home Affairs is taking responsibility for security. And Tatmadaw would take harsh punitive actions in line with existing laws and military code of conduct if security personnel were found to have gone against the law including human rights violations in conducting area clearance operations.
General Mya Tun Oo then answered the questions of journalists, and cordially greeted those present.
The Myawady Daily