January 3, 2017
Tatmadaw officials held a meeting with local Rakhine representatives in the premises of Uyittaw pagoda in Ponnagyun (Pungná cwéng) town on Monday, according to a source in the area.
During the meeting, the officials spoke of grave security threats posed by Bengali Muslims to the country. They alleged the Muslims were forming terrorist brigades to undermine the security of Myanmar and were getting armed support from across the border in Bangladesh. To protect the country from the threat, it would require the Rakhines take up weapons against the Muslims, with the blessings of the Tatmadaw.
The Rakhine representatives said they were ready for the ultimate sacrifice in the defence of the country and would not allow Arakan to become another Bangladesh. Many of the representatives present are known sympathisers of the Ma Ba Tha movement and had earlier provided manpower during the riots of 2012.
Ponnagyun is a mostly Rakhine township, with all Rohingyas concentrated in the Sidurkul village tract. In the event of a riot, the isolated Muslim community are totally cut off from any outside support and will be totally overwhelmed by hostile attackers. The village fared very badly during 2012.
When asked to comment on the matter, our correspondent in Sidurkul says none of them has any knowledge of the meeting as Rohingyas remain under blockade in their settlement for more than four years. He however opined that during the recent crackdown, the village tracts of Maungdaw North could not provide any defence against well organised Tatmadaw forces in spite of the overwhelming Muslim majority and the proximity to Bangladesh. Even though many managed to escape over the border to Bangladesh, it was no easy task and scores died trying. In light of the situation, one can only guess what will happen to places like Sidurkul where there is neither a Muslim majority, nor a border to escape.
Similar concerns have been earlier echoed by Muslims living in townships outside Maungdaw.
The meeting is a grim reminder of the helpless situation faced by the Rohingyas and other Muslim communities of Arakan who are scattered throughout the region in isolated settlements amid possible armed mobilisation of Rakhine communities.
The government had openly been floating the concept of arming Rakhine civilians.