Tatmadaw urges Buddhist civilians to arm themselves against Muslim insurgents

Myanmar military officials met with Rakhine Buddhist leaders in Ponnagyun Township on Monday to encourage them to take up arms against Muslim terrorist brigades that threatening the country’s security.

A local source told Myanmar Observer that the Rakhine leaders responded by saying they were “ready for the ultimate sacrifice in the defense of the country and would not allow Arakan to become another Bangladesh”.

The meeting took place within the Uyittaw Pagoda compound in Ponnagyun. Ponnagyun is a Buddhist-majority township near Sittwe with a Rohingya enclave concentrated in the Sidurkul village tract.

Myanmar Observer reports that Rohingya residents of the town had no knowledge of the Tatmadaw meeting because they have been blockaded within their villages since the 2012 riots. Some of the participants in Monday’s meeting are said to be affiliated with Ma Ba Tha, a Buddhist-nationalist movement that has regularly stoked tensions against Muslims in Myanmar, sometimes resulting in physical violence.

Unlike Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine State, Muslims in Ponnagyun are vastly outnumbered by local Buddhists, and in the event of an attack, would find themselves surrounded and without access to an international border. Thousands of Rohingya refugees in the north have fled violence perpetrated by the Tatmadaw to seek refuge in Bangladesh, though hundreds have either died on the way or been sent back by Bangladeshi authorities.

The Myanmar Police Force announced in early November that it would begin arming and training Rakhine civilians to fight Rohingya insurgents.

Human rights and conflict resolution groups said at the time that arming and training non-Muslims in Rakhine State had the potential to make the situation on the ground worse.

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