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    Speaker pledges ‘support’ for Rakhine

    By Ei Ei Toe Lwin  

    Thura U Shwe Mann says country should recognise the efforts of Rakhine people to safeguard the country’s borders and culture.

    Thura U Shwe Mann speaks at a meeting with Rakhine civil society leaders in Yangon on September 29. Photo: Boothee

    Parliamentary speaker Thura U Shwe Mann has praised ethnic Rakhine people for safeguarding Myanmar’s western border, as Rakhine representatives called for temporary ID cards to be scrapped and the right to form a people’s militia.

    During a meeting with members of the Rakhine community in Yangon on September 29, Thura U Shwe Mann said parliamentarians have a responsibility to “support” the Rakhine people.

    “It’s not enough to praise [Rakhine people] with words. Let’s cooperate to carry out our duties for the development of Rakhine State, and to physically and mentally support the people,” Thura U Shwe Mann said.

    He also urged respect for the efforts of the Rakhine people to safeguard the country’s land and maritime boundaries.

    “It’s not an easy task to take care of national sovereignty, territorial integrity, culture, traditions, customs and religion,” he said. “I appreciate the attempts of the Rakhine people to protect Myanmar … despite the difficulties.”

    Rakhine representatives used the meeting to explain the difficulties and challenges they face in regard to security, the rule of law, immigration, education and health.

    They also said that parts of the state, particularly Maungdaw, Buthidaung and parts of Sittwe township, have been occupied by illegal immigrants.

    “Illegal immigrants are using boats to enter Rakhine State through creeks and rivers before the national census in 2014,” said lawyer U Bo Min Phyu.

    He urged the speaker to take action by bolstering the state’s security forces and scrutinising individuals holding temporary identity cards, also known as white cards.

    “White cards were not provided for in the 2008 constitution, nor were they released in 1982,” the lawyer said. “White cards are unlawful.”

    Furthermore, Rakhine representatives called for the establishment of a “people’s militia” to protect the state themselves.

    “We’ll guard against all, making ourselves safe,” said Sittwe lawyer U Thar Pwint. “It’s fair for us to defend ourselves and our country in our own right.”

    He also called on Thura U Shwe Mann to do all he could to solve the unrest that has wracked Rakhine State since the outbreak of communal violence in June 2012.

    The parliamentary speaker promised to submit a report outlining all of the concerns raised at the meeting to the President’s Office and parliament.

    He conceded that there is still no rule of law or peace in Rakhine State.

    “If [someone] asks if there is an atmosphere of peace, tranquillity or rule of law in Rakhine State [the answer is] ‘no’,” Thura U Shwe Mann said.

    He also promised to take action against officials failing to follow the law, or violating it.

    “I believe that inviting us to this meeting means that you trust and rely on both me and members of parliament,” he said. “Our country was left behind for many years because we didn’t trust each other and lacked cooperation. Let’s build trust, cooperate and work together for the development of the state.”