Naypyidaw, Myanmar (BBN)-The former ruling party is again leading a charge demanding the shadowy National Defence and Security Council be convened in response to security concerns in Rakhine State.
The Union Solidarity and Development Party was among 15 political parties to sign a statement Wednesday pressing the government to address the “Rakhine situation” through the council, reports Myanmar Times.
The statement also demanded the government respond to rumours that “non-citizens” were to be repatriated and given national registration cards, presumably a reference to the tens of thousands of Muslim Rohingya who have fled to neighbouring Bangladesh in the wake of the counter-insurgency campaign in northern Rakhine State.
Bangladesh has asked Myanmar to oversee a stabilisation of the area, followed by a return of the refugee population.
“On the news emerging that the government is issuing national registration cards to those who are not citizens of Myanmar, people are worried about that, and related ministries or the government should clarify the matter,” said the statement.
U Kyaw, vice chair of the New National Democracy Party and one of the statement signatories, told The Myanmar Times Wednesday that the government should take such concerns seriously.
“‘If the government does not act transparently in response to the rumours about repatriation, we cannot imagine what will happen in the future with Rakhine State,” he said.
At the end of December, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official told Reuters that according to government information there are only 2415 Myanmar citizens in Bangladesh and who would be taken back.
He added that he had “no idea” where Bangladesh’s figure of 300,000 had come from.
In a statement preceding that report, Bangladesh said that some 50,000 people from Myanmar have taken shelter across the border since the attacks on security posts began in October, while “300,000 Myanmar nationals [have been] staying in Bangladesh for years”.
According to the UN, as of January 23, 21,000 people are estimated to be internally displaced within Maungdaw township, while 66,000 are thought to have gone to Bangladesh amid the continued security clampdown and “clearance operations”.
Trying to allay fears about any sort of mass return, Daw Aye Aye Win, a spokesperson from the foreign ministry said, “Just over 2000 people have been repatriated [from Bangladesh] from 1999 up to the present, and there have no people repatriated recently.”
When The Myanmar Times took part in a 13-member press junket to northern Rakhine State in December, Police Brigadier General Thura San Lwin from the Kyee Kan Pyin Border Guard Office confirmed that many villagers have yet to return.
He said a team comprised of immigration officials, border guard police, and township administration representatives are collecting data about the current occupancy of villages.
“We have already finished collecting data from over 450 villages out of 905. Many of the residents have not returned yet,” he said at the time.
Shortly after the release of the USDP’s statement yesterday, one of the alleged signatories, the Ta’ang National Party, said they had nothing to do with it.
According to its own statement, the TNP said there is no official by the name of “Tun Kyaing” in their party, although such a person was listed as signing for them.
“We strongly protest the abuse of our party’s name,” said the TNP’s statement.
Citing ‘general crisis’, parties urge powerful security council meeting
The President’s Office spokesperson did not return repeated requests for comment yesterday in response to the demand that the NDSC be convened.
The National Defence and Security Council is an 11-member committee predominantly comprised of Tatmadaw member and charged with key functions under the 2008 constitution.
It has not convened under the National League for Democracy-backed government.