Islamic militants from the Islamic State group also known as IS or ISIL are now trying to create a stronghold in developing countries of Africa and South East Asia as their roles elsewhere including Europe are limited.
Marawi and the island of Mindanao in the Philippines became the first hub of the Islamic militants in the region, followed by the Rakhine State of Myanmar follows.
Myanmar has been struggling with ‘illegal immigrants’ from a neighboring country which has a large and rising population. Extremist Bengali terrorists launched terror attacks in Rakhine State on August 25 just one day after the Advisory Commission on Rakhine State released its final report on the situation.
Local residents and government officials fled the terror attacks which claimed several lives and made thousands homeless in the Rakhine State. These terror attacks in Rakhine is seen as an attempt by Bengalis to occupy Maungdaw and Buthidaung as a ‘Rohingya’ state and Bengali terrorists are now trying to breakadministration in the state apart, Minister of Home Affairs Lt. General KyawSwe told a group of diplomats.
“If these terror attacks including killings and arson attacks worsen [in Rakhine State], the National Defense and Security Council would call a meeting to make necessary preparations as the country’s west gateway could fall to the extremist Bengali terrorists,” said Major General Than HtutThein, deputy chief of the Head Office of the Security for Military Affairs.
Analysts said the IS militants may be supporting these attacks in Myanmar as IS loyal supporters were found to have been involved in the Marawi attacks. Meanwhile, as Myanmar face strong criticism by the international community including the United Nations about its anti-terrorist efforts in Rakhine State, it has become very difficult for the country to take effective measures against the terrorists, they said.
The Rakhine State Advisory Commission’s final report included a recommendation to amend the 1982 Citizenship Law. The 'wave of terrorism', which was initiated in 2012, has intensified after five years and the present series of attacks indicated battling with an objective of territory separation. It’s doubtful now that the international community including the United Nations are opening the wayfor Myanmar to give in to the Islamic militants to create an Islamic state in Rakhine State.
It’s important to see how Myanmar will react to the international pressure on the Rakhine issue as the crisis grows, and how Myanmar will respond to Islamic extremists trying to create a stronghold in Myanmar.
The infiltration of extremist Bengali terrorists is not only a problem for Myanmar’s national security but also a dilemma on territory and sovereignty staged by extremist Bengali terrorists who are supported by the IS militants to create an Islamic state. Myanmar must do all it can to fence off the enemy.
“Our country has official holidays for every religion including Islam, Hinduism and Christianity. How many countries in the world do have like this? The United States of America has none. Britain has none. The democratic countries which value human rights have none. Myanmar is respectful to every religion. This issue is big. To be clear, Myanmar citizens are the owner of its sovereignty. No one can order us to do something.
I mean all Myanmar citizens who live in the country. Myanmar has official holiday for Muslims. Muslim countries have no official holidays for Buddhists. Look at thefacts, you will see if there is any religious discrimination or human rights abuse. Sunni Muslims are fighting against Shiite Muslims in the world, even in Saudi Arabia. We have nothing like this. Economy is related to politics and military affairs. The national security is the most important matter. Anyway the peaceful way is the best. Myanmar has many Muslims who are rich and well-educated. They’re doctors. Look at these, there is no racial or religious discrimination in this country,” commented economic policy expert DrAungKoKo.
Though there were previously negative views about the Rakhine State Advisory Commission’s final report, it is as if the final report is setting the policy direction. The government’s information committee announced that it will carry out recommendations from the final report even with some opposition. Nyan Win, chairman of the central information committee for the ruling National League for Democracy party, confirmed that the government will carry out the recommendations.
Within the commission’s report were some good points as well as some highly debatable suggestions such as the idea of Security Forces providing training, akin to a people’s militia of sorts, for places where there were only Bengalis.
But it is a highly improbable and unwise decision to provide police training to Bengalis during a time where extremist terrorists could brainwash and recruit them for terror activities.
The report suggested amending Myanmar’s 1982 citizenship law. Itconcluded that fierce anti-terror operations would results in even more conflicts.
It simply put forward the “human rights” agenda, essentially suggesting that Myanmar allow over four million illegal immigrant Bengalis hiding under the title “Rohingya” to become citizens, and have access to citizen and ethnic rights.But such changes never happened in any other other country.
The report merely glanced over what is actually a serious factor of drug trade between the local insurgent group Arakan Army (AA) and extremist terrorist group ARSA (ArakanRohingya Salvation Army), suggesting only investigations into the big drug dealers while making no mention of smaller dealer networks.
It also made no mention of how Bengalis could return to their home country or to punish those illegal immigrants under laws and regulations.
The Rakhine Report was published clearly in favour of Muslim Bengalis against the rights of Rakhine ethnics.
Despite its blatant bias towards the Bengalis, the report did have some important recommendations such as the involvement of China, India and Bangladesh to bring peace and development in Rakhine State, as well as a noted point to crackdown on corrupt civil servants. It advises leniency towards small to medium hotel licensing and other suggestions to improve education, economy and healthcare situation in Myanmar.
It falls on the government to pay heed and follow up on the good things while taking great care to not to pursue unrealisable recommendations.
Civilian deaths after the formation of Annan Commission
The Rakhine State Advisory Commission was formed on August 24, 2016. Prior to its inception, there was a criticism of appointing an ex-UN General Secretary who favours Bengali people would make worse the Rakhine State’s situation.The critics proved themselves right not long after the commission’s formation as Bengali extremist terrorists intensified their attacks.
Since September 2016 until August 2017, civilian casualties continued to rise. Just as State Counsellor Aung San SuuKyi said before, it was the goal of the extremist terrorists to elevate a matter of internal border and immigration affairs into an international agenda. Their tactic is workingas the the commission issued the report.One month after the commission was created, several places in Maungdaw were raided by the terrorists. Border Guard Command Post in Kyeekanpyin as well as police guard posts in Koetankauk and local administration office in Ngakhuya were taken by a surprise attack.
As a result, a total of nine policemen were killed, 48 assorted weapons, 6624 bullets, 47 bayonets and 164 bullet magazines were taken. With the returning fires from police and security forces, eight terrorists died and two were captured alive together with bullets and a pistol.According to information released by the President Office. Intelligent gatherings from the two captured terrorists and two that was transferred over from Bangladesh revealed that there was a gradual, systematic process of recruiting Muslim Bengalis in Rakhine State to become extremists and that it was done with international support and funding.
The released information also claimed that the funding came from not big international organizations but a select few wealthy individuals in the Middle East who were sympathetic to the extremist group.
Terror attacks in Maungdaw, Rakhine are parts of the RSO andAqaMul Mujahidin that operate within the Maungdaw Region, and led by a certain Havistoohar. He is from Kyaukpyinseik Village, Maungdawand had received at least six-month training from Pakistani Talibans.
Havistoohar was reportedly gone to the Middle East under the disguise of a refugee to request for funds. His 12 other co-conspirators include a Pakistani called Khalid as well as Ibrahim, Azar, Aratular, Zubai, Islarm that were living in refugee camps in Bangladesh.They arrived in Myanmar around six months ago through the help of Havistoohar and provided training to the youths freshly recruited into their terrorist group as well as conducted secret shooting and close combat trainings in several villages in the mountainous areas.
The information from the President Office claimed that the original plan was to deploy around 400 terrorists to launch simultaneous attacks on six separate locations, but they had only managed to successfully attack the locations on October 9 incidents.
It is reported that the plans were to attack more border guard and police locations using weapons took from the previous attacks. Havistoohar had spread propaganda messages and videos in the style of other well-known terror groups such as the Taliban, Al-Qaeda and ISIS to the Muslim population living in Rakhine, as well as to the international community in order to gain even more support when they achieve the goal of taking over Maungdaw.
After the attacks, regular killings of civilians as well as kidnappings occurred monthly in Northern Regions of Maungdaw, Rakhine.According to the State Counsellor Office’s Information Committee, 41 people died and 21 remain missing from a time period between October 2016 to 30 June 2017.
The killings of innocent villagers and ethnics sent a chilling message and meant to strike fear. Those found colluding with the government and military forces would be terminated.
On 25 August 2017, extremist terrorists launched carefully planned attacks on 30 Police Guard posts. This brazen scale of attack signified the importance of aid and funding from the Middle East as well as the intensity of terrorism recruitment and international pressure within the one-year period.
From then until the end of August, ARSA’s terrorists launched 52 attacks and clashed with Security Forces 90 times. Two soldiers, eleven policemen, two civil servants - a total of 15 had died while five soldiers and ten policemen were injured. One soldier remains missing.
In terms of civilian casualties within Maungdaw, Buthidaung and Yathedaung areas there were 14 deads of whom seven were Hindus, three Dinet ethnics and four Rakhine ethnics. Two Dinets were injured and two remain missing. The military and the police forces had lost firearms, bullets, grenades and other combat accessories as well as seven motor vehicles. A total of 2,625 homes were razed to the ground in 32 villages and 2 wards within Maungdaw by arson attacks from ARSA Bengali extremist terrorists.A total of 11,728 people from 77 villages within Buthidaung and Maungdaw townships were displaced from their homes. They now have to stay in temporary shelters in safe zones within their townships where security forces are stationed.
Within a short span of one year, numbers of causalities and damage done are staggering. The terror groups also lost around 400 of its members.
If one were to look at the 2014 census, there are around one million Bengalis living in Rakhine State.In Maungdaw, over 90 per cent of the population are Bengali. Now that Rakhine and other ethnicities that only makes up around 6 percent of the Maungdaw population had escaped to safer place. Iteffectively means that Maungdaw is now Bengali majority. All these aforementioned data means that the suggestion from the Rakhine Report to provide training to Bengalis is senseless and highly disturbing.
U KhinMaungLatt, Rakhine State MP from No.3 constituency, made a proposal in Parliament along similar lines. His idea was to arm the local Rakhine and other ethnic villages and provide training as a People’s Militia of sorts in order to combat terrorists from taking deeper root in theRakhine State.
His idea, however, is also difficult to materialise as there are little to no local ethnics left in conflict regions such as Maungdaw. If we were to carry it out, it would essentially be arming Bengalis, who might possibly already be under the influence of extremist terrorists, to fight against other Bengalis.
In this situation, the best course of action would be to educate all those involved on the dangers and the costs of conflicts, violence and terrorism before another big wave of crisis occur.
If one looks back at the Islamist extremists of the world, there are many Islamist extremist groups created after the Al-Qaeda. The entire world suffers fromIslamophobia. The latest Islamist extremist group is ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria). As they faced defeats in Iraq and Syria and unable to make way into Europe, they are trying to penetrate least developed countries. They have already taken a stronghold in southern Thailand, Mindanao island in southern Philippines, and now they targets northern Rakhine State in Myanmar where they repeatedly say Myanmar oppressed Rohingya.
On May 24th, armed extremists seized Marawi in Mindanao island with 200,000 population. The Philippine Government has announced Martial Law in Marawiup till now. The Philippine troops are still fighting the armed extremists with the international assistance. After Marawi, Rakhine is the second place the Islamist extremists are trying to take a stronghold.
Unlike the situation in southern Thailand is there are many well-off and educated people there and thus the incidents had not spread other parts in Thailand. That’s why Rakhine became the target as it has high illiteracy population, deep in poverty and is governed poor border security measures. Therefore, Rakhine State advisory commission report stated that fresh terrorist attack may appear in Rakhine in future. The Report suggests that if there is no effective solution for Rakhine State, locals will be the victims of the terrorists easily and it may spread to entire Rakhine State.
In November 2016 in Maungdaw Township, Bengali extremist attacks broke out. International reactions towards Rakhine more and more intense. It showed that the terrorists want Myanmar to be a territory of extremists. No country in the world wants its territory to be a part of Islamist extremists and build a new nation. Myanmar, a sovereign nation, is doing its best within the laws not to lose its territory to extremists.
There are evidences that IS members coming back from Syria and Iraq, extremists from Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, India, and Saudi Arabia and those attacking Marawi in the Philippines, are grouping to build an Islamic State.
These terrorists’ merging of land and their cooperation are gaining grounds as they get from international fundings. If we bow down to them as Myanmarget criticisms from international society, these extremists will be easily moved in. So, the Rakhine State crisis is not an easy matter.
It is assumed that IS militants, who are losing their territory in Iraq and Syria, want to move to Mindanao Island to establish an Islamic State at the island as the militants who are loyalty to them are based at the island. According to international experts for security and counter-terrorism, about 1,000 nationals from Southeast Asian countries are at IS militants controlled areas and there are terrorist militants who are coming back from Middle East.
Armed Muslim militants are still controlled Marawi in the island in southern Philippine. Philippine’s President Duterte said he might be announced martial law nationwide to protect his country from the militants. He also allowed the Philippine’s army to bomb the militants hiding in mosques in the towns from the military planes. The army is reinforcing to fight terrorism and United States is helping them. Now Myanmar is attacked by extremist terrorists and Tatmadaw is reinforcing the army to defend the offensive launched by Bengali extremist terrorists. Myanmar cannot launch the offensive to the terrorists as they are under pressure from United Nations and international community although they are facing the same situations as in Philippine.
The offensive launched by the terrorists are more systematic and the army was attacked by the terrorists up to 52 times in a week. They encountered up to 90 times now. The UN and Britain need to notice that they are creating a situation in which they are pushing the terrorists to have a stronghold in Myanmar, although Myanmar is not made any serious response to the terrorists. Especially the term “Rohingya” used by international community including the UN are totally misleading.
“In my view, (the usage) is important. They said the Rohingya is an ethnic race. It is not true. We are not saying about it with our emotion. We read about it and made researches. Someone showed me the books written by a Rohingya. I read them carefully. They proved no background history. They are just linking imaginations and history. Another thing is I think one might take notice is that our ethnics have no facial appearance or skin colour like them, the Bengalis. It is noticeable. So in my view, calling them “Rohingya” are intending to attack our country’s sovereignty,” Nyan Win, chairman of central information committee and member of central executive committee and secretary of National League for Democracy (NLD) told Radio Free Asia (RFA).
What Nyan Win said is right and Bengalis so called Rohingyas have the same facial appearances with people from Bangladesh. The international community ignored the fact and forcing Myanmar to accept Bengalis is under illusion.
DrNaingSweOo, founder and executive director of Thay Nin Ga Institute for Strategic Studies-TISS, said: "Southeast Asia has become the centre of attention for terrorism. Terrorist attacks happen in southern Thailand and Marawi of the Philippines. IS militants try to come here. In our country, police posts were attacked in 2016. On August 25 this year also, attacks were carried out again. Those attacks were not launched by one individual. I think they were carried out by a certain group after hatching a well-organised plan. If we make a review, military operations of ISIS in Middle East are decelerating. So, some extremist terrorists have come here. They are likely to be seeking a new zone. Another thing is that Bengalis claim themselves to be Rohingya in the international community. In this context, they pretend to be persecuted. They say their attack come as they are being persecuted. In reality, not only police posts but also native people including Mro, Rakhine, Dinetand Hindus are subject to attacks. They are not attacking police posts to disrupt administrative system. They may include extremists coming to seek a new zone as well as ARSA terrorists. They try to come here after being trained in some parts of Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Bangladesh with little governmental rule. They then conducted multiplier training courses here. Such courses have to be conducted with foreign aids. First, they attacked police outposts. They demanded their rights. They used both soft and hard ways saying that their attacks were to demand their rights. They claimed themselves to be native people and homegrown. Their attempt was to demand the right to become a national race, not for citizenship alone. They are also trying to win influence in that region. They already have a strong force. If they have the area to operate, they would dare to demand a state. In the final stage, they would not demand a race alone. The situation looks like Bangladesh. As far as I am concerned, it can be reviewed that they would try to break away to establish another country."
No way to amend 1982 Citizenship Law
There are disagreements over the citizenship in the report of Kofi Annan's commission and criticism is rising. The commission suggested that the government starts reviewing the 1982 Citizenship Law. It suggested that there should be a balance between the citizenship law and other international treaties Myanmar have signed, including Articles (7) and (8) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
"At present, the 1982 Citizenship Law is suited to the situation of our country. So I assume that the amendment is not necessary. There are the things we are doing under this law. As they do not accept it, we have to ensure law enforcement. I think we have to seek effective ways in line with the law. But any amendment is unacceptable," said DrNaingSweOo.
Fleeing to the international community in the name of Rohingya, seeking political asylum and leaving Myanmar for fear of genocide are the best excuses for the Bengalis trying to seek a new land as their country faces population explosion.
I have already raised a question in the article "I want to ask the government" published in the August 24 issue of Daily Eleven in 2016. The article highlighted the danger of the entry of over 4.2 million Bengalis living outside Myanmar by claiming themselves to be Rohingya so as to live an easy life, if the Annan's commission is to suggest amendment to the 1982 Citizenship Law. At present also, the commission has suggested a balance between the law and international treaties.
If we make a legal realignmentas suggested by Annan’sCommission over the 1982 Citizenship Law and accept the Bengalis as Rohingya, Maungdaw region would become a stronghold of Islamist extremists in the next 30 years. Finally, they would have the chance to break away as another state and then to establish a state of Islamist extremists. The day the citizenship law is amended would be a history of culprit and it would also mean surrendering to territorial aggression named Greater Bangladesh (United Bengal).
If we considered 4.2 million Bengalis living outside the country in the name of Rohingya, over 1 million Bengalis in Rakhine State, the number of illegal Bengalis who spread across the country in the aftermath of 1988 uprising and the number of Bengali who have been illegally entering Myanmar through Rakhine and Chin states and Ayeyawady Region, we would have to accept them by amending the law.
If that is so, the Bengali population size would be about similar to that of Yangon. As Bangladesh with a population of over 160 million is also about the size of Shan State, we may see millions of Bengalis illegally entering our country. Considering these points, the amendment to the 1982 Citizenship Law is unacceptable. The international community, including UN and Britain trying to put pressure on Myanmar, needs to understand and accept the fact that citizenship is being granted in line with the national laws.
"Practically, concerned immigration officials are going to Rakhine State to grant citizenship to the Bengalis in accord with the citizenship law. You will hear about that. News about that is also featured in newspapers. Some accept that while some do not. If they do not accept that, what are they? They are not from Myanmar. If they do not accept citizenship, it would amount to insulting our national sovereignty," said Nyan Win.
Unless they accept the citizenship verification in line with the 1982 Citizenship Law, Myanmar has to think about withdrawing from the international treaties. Such a plan is only to prevent the emergence of a state of Islamist extremists on Myanmar's soil and another state of ISIS in the world.
"I want to say that Myanmar is made up of 135 national races. Successive heads of state and military leaders have said Rohingya or Bengali is not among our national races. I want to further emphasise that they do not exist in our country. Roughly, we could say that Bengalis lunched attacks with intent to occupy Buthidaung and Maungdaw regions as a Rohingya territory", said Union Minister for Home Affairs Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe.
(To be continued…)