Suu Kyi tells military to crush Rakhine rebels

Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi discussed insurgent attacks on police in a rare meeting with the military chief on Jan 7, 2019. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

YANGON • Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi discussed insurgent attacks on police yesterday in a rare meeting with the military chief, and her administration called for the armed forces to "crush" the rebels, a government spokesman said.

Myanmar government spokesman Zaw Htay said Ms Suu Kyi, President Win Myint and other Cabinet members met military leaders, including army chief Min Aung Hlaing, his deputy and the military intelligence chief, to discuss "foreign affairs and national security".

The insurgents killed 13 policemen and wounded nine in attacks on four police posts last Friday, as Myanmar celebrated Independence Day, state media reported.

"The President's office has instructed the military to launch an operation to crush the terrorists," Mr Zaw Htay told a news conference in the capital, Naypyitaw.

Fighting between government forces and the rebel Arakan Army in the western state of Rakhine has displaced thousands of people since early last month, according to the United Nations.

The Arakan Army wants greater autonomy for Rakhine, where the mainly Buddhist Rakhine ethnic group makes up the majority of the population.

An Arakan Army spokesman outside Myanmar told Reuters last week that the group attacked the security forces in response to a broad military offensive in northern Rakhine state that also targeted civilians.

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said yesterday that 4,500 people were sheltering in monasteries and communal spaces after being displaced by the fighting in the past month.

Mr Zaw Htay described the Arakan Army as a "terrorist organisation" and said it had surprised security forces on guard against Rohingya insurgents.

He said the Arakan Army could destabilise Rakhine for years to come and warned people not to give it support.

Mr Zaw Htay also accused the Arakan Army of meeting the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army, a group of Rohingya insurgents that Myanmar also considers terrorists, but added that Myanmar was unable to eliminate the groups as they had bases across the border in Bangladesh.

A Bangladeshi Foreign Ministry official and two Border Guards Bangladesh officers denied the accusation.

The Myanmar government and military leaders also discussed a temporary ceasefire the military announced last month in other parts of the country, where other insurgent groups operate, Mr Zaw Htay said.


Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 08, 2019, with the headline Suu Kyi tells military to crush Rakhine rebels. Subscribe