Monday, June 17th 2024

AA does not target civilians, instead protects and assists regardless of religious or races: U Khaing Thu Kha

Narinjara News, 21 May 2024 (Interview)


On the night of  17 May, many Muslim houses in Buthidaung Township were reportedly burned in an arson attack attributed to the Arakan Army (AA). Additionally, a drone bomb attack on the number 1 basic education high school, where Muslim IDPs sought refuge, resulted in  a number of casualties, stated some members of the Muslim community. Allegations are floating that these incidents were carried out by the AA fighters.


Regarding all these situations, our senior reporter Ma Aye Myat Khaing contacted AA spokesperson U Khaing Thu Kha and he clarified many points. Regarding these  reports, Khaing Thu Kha asserted that these allegations are completely false and baseless.


“In reality, there are Muslim terrorist organizations like ARSA, ARA and RSO who are collaborating with the terrorist junta forces in Buthidaung. Additionally, the Muslim armed forces, who had recently received military training and arms from the military junta were also present there. As of last night, those groups were still in the town. The junta forces conducted airstrikes on Buthidaung town, resulting in the burning of some houses. This is what happened yesterday, and the fire was caused by the  junta forces conducting airstrikes. Before this, between 11 and 21 April, both Muslim terrorist groups and junta forces set fire to houses  owned by the Arakanese, Hindus and non-Muslims. Approximately 5,000 houses were damaged in the incident. The primary objective of these arson attacks was to spark religious and ethnic tensions, aiming to incite anger among the Arakanese community and provoke retaliatory actions to target the Muslim houses. The Arakanese did not respond by burning houses like the others had done. When the Arakanese did not retaliate, the junta soldiers could not  incite the religious and ethnic conflicts as they expected. However, they have already committed violent acts such as arson, looting and war crimes. Crimes against humanity already took place  in Buthidaung. To cover up their crimes, they set some buildings on fire and recorded themselves on video. Then they sent these video clippings  to international organizations, alleging that the AA fighters carried out the arson attacks. Some selfish individuals conspired to spread this propaganda towards the global audience.


Q: There were reports of casualties because of AA’s drone bomb attack on number 1 basic education high school in Buthidaung. The Muslims fled the conflict to seek refuge in other places .What is your reaction towards these reports?


A: We have not targeted civilian locations at all. As stated before, our commitment remains in assisting innocent civilians, regardless of their religion or ethnic backgrounds. We are dedicated to support and safeguard all innocent residents of Arakan State. At the same time, we will take decisive actions against terrorist organizations and individuals involved in disruptive activities. We will continue our efforts to take lawful actions.


Q: As of yesterday, are there any Muslim or Arakanese people still in Buthidaung town? Are they fleeing from the conflict zone as done by  some Muslims and  seeking refuge in the AA  controlled areas?


A: The current situation in Buthidaung town remains complex, with ongoing resistance from the terrorist armed groups in some areas. Clearance operations are being conducted in these areas. Most civilians have fled to safer places. According to the latest information, over 50,000 Muslims from Buthidaung and Maungdaw have sought refuge in a safe area controlled by the ULA/AA. We are also doing our best to provide them food and healthcare services.


Q: Muslim IDPs have sought refuge in areas controlled by the AA and they are facilitated with necessary support. However, the AA has been criticised for human rights violations amid the conflict. What will be your response to these allegations?


A: We want to clarify that if there are human rights violations, we request to reveal specific details. Please provide the date, location, individuals involved, and the actions of our forces. With precise information about the incidents, we will conduct thorough investigations and take appropriate actions. However, baseless accusations without evidence are not acceptable. For instance, there have been claims that the AA burned down Muslim houses. We urge you to be specific, meaning the date, village, and whose house was affected. Such information will be thoroughly examined through our administrative and political channels. Making sweeping generalizations without sufficient evidence is not acceptable.


Q: Now that the AA has captured Buthidaung, how do you plan to address the concern of ethnic groups in the region and challenges faced by the internally displaced persons ?


A: You will also notice that in the areas controlled by the ULA/AA, there has been long standing harmony among different religious and ethnic families. This harmony has been fostered over the time, resulting in no conflicts among different ethnic groups. The ULA/AA does not impose restrictions or barriers on any ethnic group. Additionally, there is smooth interaction and movement with various ethnic groups managing their daily lives without hindrances. Even after the capture of Buthidaung and Maungdaw, the ULA government continues its initiative to ensure that people with different backgrounds can live with harmony.


Q: Is there any additional information you want to add?


A: What I'd like to emphasize is that the conflict isn't confined to Buthidaung and Maungdaw alone in Myanmar. It's a struggle between the fascist military junta and the people of Myanmar. Consequently, the entire population of Myanmar faces the negative impact because of ongoing airstrikes conducted by the military junta across the country. The relentless conflict results in casualties beyond  Buthidaung and Maungdaw. So, the focus shouldn't solely be on the concerns of people in both the townships. The remaining 50 million people across the country are also facing difficulties. They are being arrested and even killed by the junta forces. It's crucial for the international community to understand that people here are losing limbs due to junta’s force atrocities, and this issue deserves urgent attention. Focusing solely on one ethnic group overlooks the plight of all Myanmar citizens. Human rights violations affect everyone, regardless of ethnicity, and the failure to address it constitutes discrimination. We urge the international human rights organizations to address these issues and ensure the protection of every common individual.


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