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Army Chief: Tatmadaw Will Prevent Political Intervention on Rohingyas’ Behalf

Senior General Min Aung Hlaing speaks during a Nay Pyi Taw ceremony marking Armed Forces Day on Monday. (Myanmar Armed Forces | AFP)

By Htet Naing Zaw, The Irrawaddy

NAYPYIDAW — Burma Army Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing has warned against what he described as a political intervention in Burma in the name of assisting the Rohingya.

The Burma Army chief, in his address on the 72nd Anniversary Armed Forces Day observed in the administrative capital Naypyidaw on Monday, reiterated that “Bengalis” did not belong to Burma, but were interlopers from Bangladesh—a reference to the self-identifying Rohingya community largely concentrated in Arakan State.

The senior general said any international political intervention on the pretext of assisting refugees from this community would threaten Burma’s sovereignty.

According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, more than 70,000 Rohingya have fled to Bangladesh following a crackdown by security forces in northern Arakan State, following coordinated attacks on border police outposts last October.

“We are responsible to prevent, based on the Tatmadaw Spirit, those actions done on the pretext of [addressing the] political situation as well as religious or racial issues in our country, because they can harm the sovereignty of our country,” said the army chief.

On Friday, the 34th Session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva adopted a resolution on Burma tabled by the EU, and resolved to dispatch an independent international fact finding mission to Burma. They also extended the mandate of the UN’s Special Rapporteur on Burma, Yanghee Lee.

The same day, Burma’s Foreign Affairs Ministry, headed by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, released a statement, raising objections to the resolution.

Regarding military operations in northern Arakan State, northern Kachin State, Mong Ko in Shan State and Laukkai, in the Kokang region, Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing said on Monday that the military had to defend the country and its political future.

“The Tatmadaw firmly adopts the stance of ensuring the stability, unity and development of the country and monitoring to ensure that [the country] can walk firmly on the multi-party democracy path chosen by the people,” said the army chief.

The Tatmadaw will play a role in assisting elected governments to ensure development for the country, said the army chief.

The 72nd Armed Forces Day ceremony was attended by senior military leaders, government officials, lawmakers, retired military officers and diplomats.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko