Arakan

The land that is known as Arakan by the foreigners is called Rakhaing-pray by its own people, Rakhaing-thar (Arakanese) who were titled this name in honour of preservation on their national heritage and ethics or morality.

More Arrests Reported over Alleged Armed Group Ties in Arakan State

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Thursday, February 4, 2016 0 comments

Arakan Army troops on parade in Laiza, Kachin State, in July 2014. (Photo: Thaw Hein Htet / The Irrawaddy)
RANGOON — Authorities in Arakan State are continuing to arbitrarily arrest civilians on suspicion of links to the Arakan Army, according to several local sources, with the latest detainee a landowner from Taungup Township who was released on Wednesday evening.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Aung Tin Moe said he was arrested on Monday in Taungup Township’s Ma-Ei town by military personnel who quizzed him over suspected ties to the Arakan Army which has recently been engaged in clashes with government troops.
“They asked me what I have been doing since university age to this year,” said Aung Tin Moe, who owns a teak plantation in Ma-Ei town. He said he was detained by army personnel and held in neighboring Ann Township until his release on Wednesday evening.
A friend of Aung Tin Moe, citizen journalist Tun Tun Naing, has also claimed he is wanted by authorities in Kyaukphyu Township.
“I don’t know exactly why they are trying to apprehend me. I have heard that they [the Burma Army] suspect me because I was a childhood friend of Col. Nyo Tun Aung,” he said, referring to the vice chief-of-staff of the Arakan Army.
Last month, the chair of a local civil society organization and two other men were detained in Leik Kha Maw village, Kyaukphyu Township, on the grounds of their alleged links to the ethnic armed group, according to eyewitnesses.
Relatives of the detained men, one of whom is Maung Aye, the chair of the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association, said they were originally being held at Kyaukphyu Prison.
Tun Lwin, coordinator of the Kyaukphyu Social Network, a separate organization, said he went to a military office in Zaytiya village in Kyaukphyu Township, along with six monks, to enquire about the detainees.
“They told us all they did was arrest the suspects according to orders,” Tun Lwin said. The trio have since been moved to an undisclosed location, according to Tun Lwin, who criticized authorities for arresting civilians on spurious grounds.
Other arrests were also reported last month. Taungup Township administrator Lu Maw said local police arrested two alleged Arakan Army soldiers found in possession of 50 walkie-talkies near the town’s outskirts on Jan. 9.
On Jan. 21, two Arakanese men were also detained in the capital Sittwe by army personnel, according to local media. Another Sittwe resident was reportedly detained a few days later.
The Irrawaddy phoned Arakan State security and border affairs minister Htein Linn on Wednesday but was unable to make contact.
In March 2015, fighting broke out between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army near Kyauktaw Township in what was believed to be the first time in a decade that ethnic Arakanese armed rebels in the region had clashed with government troops.
The following month, at least 20 people were detained under Burma’s Unlawful Association Law for their alleged links to the armed faction.
The latest skirmishes broke out in Kyauktaw Township on Dec. 27, with at least 200 civilians forced to flee their homes.
The Arakan Army is not recognized by the government and has been excluded from the ongoing peace process between Naypyidaw and other ethnic armed organizations.

http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/more-arrests-reported-over-alleged-armed-group-ties-in-arakan-state.html

Mrauk-U conservation seen as reconstructing not preserving

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Tuesday, January 26, 2016 0 comments

Heritage zones in Mrauk-U, Rakhine State, are under threat due to renovations that have altered the designs of ancient pagodas, the Mrauk-U Heritage Trust claims.
Nuns pray in Mrauk-U, Rakhine State. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar TimesNuns pray in Mrauk-U, Rakhine State. Photo: Aung Htay Hlaing / The Myanmar Times
The Department of Archaeology and the National Museum in Sittwe are both operating construction sites.
“They have destroyed the ancient architecture. For example, everyone who comes to visit the Ko Thaung Pagoda agrees that the renovation is badly done because it now looks totally different from its original design,” said Daw Khin Than, chair of the Mrauk-U Heritage Trust.
Ko Thaung Pagoda – a name which translates to “90,000 Pagodas” – is the largest in Mrauk-U.
The Mrauk-U Heritage Trust is also concerned about the construction of a museum in the heritage zone, on the site of an old colonial building. “They received a budget of K300 million for the construction and now they want to spend it all,” said Daw Khin Than.
In the heritage sites of Mrauk-U, the construction of new buildings is forbidden by a 1998 law.
“We have appealed to the Rakhine State government many times to ban the construction of the museum and explained to them why, but they replied to the Department of Archeology that the construction would continue as planned,” Daw Khin Than said.
The heritage zone in Bagan also falls under the protection of the 1998 law, but some hotels built in the area are now under investigation for possible violation of the law where a significant increase in tourism threatens conservation of the site.
The preservation of Mrauk-U, the last capital of the Arakanese kingdom, now faces similar threats, experts say. Parts of the heritage site were destroyed years ago for the construction of a railroad.
“The Department of Archaeology has conducted renovation on the palace, the city wall, several pagodas and other sites with a K660 million budget in Mrauk-U in the 2014-15 financial year, but all sites were damaged due to incorrect reconstruction,” according to the Mrauk-U Heritage Trust.
The organisation said that renovation work had also been done on the Ko Thaung Pagoda with a budget of K590 million during the 2015-16 financial year.
“We don’t know whether they are trying to preserve or destroy the pagodas,” Daw Khin Than said.
U Kyaw Hla Mg, president of the Regional Guide Society, sees great potential for Mrauk-U to become a tourist destination, if ancient pagodas hidden by hills and forest are systematically uncovered.
“The Department of Archeology has only uncovered 5 percent of pagodas are now hidden in the forests; the other 95 percent are now lost,” he said.
More than 3500 tourists visited Mrauk-U in 2014 and about 4200 in 2015, according to the Ministry of Hotels and Tourism. There are 1552 ancient pagodas in Mrauk-U and 6352 in the whole of Rakhine State.
“We could try to be listed as a [UNESCO] World Heritage Site but the renovations conducted by the Department of Archeology have destroyed the old architecture. It was reconstruction rather than renovation and ancient religious buildings were demolished,” U Kyaw Hla Mg said.
Daw Khin Than of the Mrauk-U Heritage Trust sees the renovations as a great loss for the Rakhine people. “We would like to show the Rakhine heritage to the world, but it has all been destroyed.”

http://www.mmtimes.com/index.php/national-news/18655-mrauk-u-conservation-seen-as-reconstructing-not-preserving.html

Risks loom for Myanmar’s Kyaukphyu Economic Zone

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Monday, January 25, 2016 0 comments

The end of 2015 saw a series of major announcements and decisions regarding Myanmar’s latest special economic zone (SEZ) in Kyaukphyu township of Rakhine State. In late December, Myanmar’s government approved the demarcation of land for the SEZ and awarded tenders to develop the SEZ to a CITIC Group-led consortium.
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The Kyaukphyu SEZ is a key part of Myanmar’s drive to attract foreign direct investment. It is one of three such zones set up since the military-backed USDP took over power from the Tatmadaw military junta via elections in 2011. Kyaukphyu’s SEZ includes three projects: a deep-sea port, an industrial park, and a housing project.
Optimistic projections suggest the SEZ may boost Myanmar’s GDP by as much as 10 billion USD annually. Failure, on the other hand, could undermine confidence in similar investment projects throughout the emerging economy.
The CITIC-led consortium chosen to develop the SEZ’s port and industrial park is composed of five additional firms, four of them Chinese: China Merchants Holdings Co. LTD, China Harbor Engineering Company Ltd., TEDA Investment Holding, Yunnan Construction Engineering Group, and Thailand’s Charoen Pokphand Group Company Limited.
Despite their initial success in the bidding, however, the consortium firms (and other investors interested in the future of the SEZ) face a series of formidable political risks.
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First, Rakhine State’s ethno-religious tensions put the new SEZ at risk. Conflict between the Rakhine Buddhist majority and the state’s Muslim minorities has escalated into mob violence in the past.
During riots in 2012, for instance, inter-ethnic conflict led to the destruction of the Muslim quarter of Kyaukphyu township. In the event of further riots, mob violence could cause collateral damage to consortium property or personnel. Ethno-nationalist extremists might even intentionally target Chinese managers or workers given mounting anti-Chinese sentiment throughout the region.
Another set of risks stem from disputes with local landowners and civil society organizations (CSOs). Most of the township is populated by poor fishermen and farmers whose property and livelihoods will be significantly disrupted by the SEZ.
Environmental and rights-focused CSOs are already mobilizing locals and pressing for changes to SEZ plans over possible environmental impacts, the share of the project to be managed by Myanma firms and staffed by local workers, and the proper compensation for the land to be acquired for the SEZ. Disagreements over these issues – particularly land compensation – have held up similar projects, including the Dawei SEZ and Myitsone dam.
Kyaukphyu landowners are requesting a particularly high rate of compensation for their property – as much as five times what has been paid in other SEZ cases – and their demands are unlikely to be met.
In addition, resource nationalism and anti-Chinese sentiment is on the rise throughout Myanmar, particularly in Kyaukphyu where a number of gas extraction and pipeline projects have triggered protests in the past. Given the dominant role of Chinese firms in the consortium, and Kyaukphyu’s proximity to these gas projects, resource nationalism will likely intensify local resentment toward the SEZ.
As a consequence of these discontents, CSOs and local landowners could create problems for the new SEZ. There is a distinct possibility that these actors could orchestrate protests or broader unrest that could disrupt operations, escalate into limited violence, and generate bad press for Chinese businesses who already face an uphill battle in terms of public relations in Myanmar.
Additionally, these groups will likely lobby the incoming National League for Democracy (NLD) to revise, delay, or abandon the project which provides its own set of challenges.
Myanmar’s ongoing political transition to NLD-rule following November’s democratic elections poses potential political risks for the consortium.
Investors are still somewhat uncertain as to how competent the former opposition party will prove as it assumes power. The party has little experience governing, but will need to choose an effective replacement from among its ranks to replace the retiring chair of the Kyaukphyu SEZ committee, U Myint Thein.
There are also questions about how friendly the NLD and its leader Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (DASSK) will be toward the consortium and the SEZ. NLD lawmakers – including the head of the NLD’s economic team, Han Thar Myint – opposed the parliamentary authorization for the SEZ, arguing it was conducted without sufficient consultation with the NLD. DAASK and the NLD were also opponents of the Chinese-backed Myitsone dam project that was suspended by the USDP amid protests by environmentalists, local landowners, and resource-nationalists.
The NLD’s activist roots may also make it more sympathetic toward local activists and CSOs. Furthermore, the NLD is not nearly as close with China as the Tatmadaw and its USDP affiliates.
Nevertheless, recent developments indicate that the consortium may fare well under the NLD. The party has made economic success one of their foremost priorities. The NLD’s resounding electoral victory should give it a powerful mandate, reducing its vulnerability to political pressure from local groups and activists opposed to major economic projects like the SEZ.
Recently, DASSK seems to have warmed to China and has also adopted a more pragmatic stance on Chinese-backed investments. In 2012, for instance, she supported a controversial Chinese copper minedespite major protests by local activists.
These signposts indicate that while the potential impact of NLD opposition to the SEZ is quite formidable, the probability of this risk may be diminishing.
Moving forward, the CITIC consortium and prospective investors in the Kyaukphyu SEZ need to monitor local and national politics closely.
It will be important to monitor 1) ethnoreligious tensions in the region, 2) local protests’ traction in national politics – particularly among former-activists in the NLD, and 3) the development of Sino-Myanmar relations under the new NLD government. Any one of these dynamics could create obstacles to the successful development of the otherwise promising Kyaukphyu SEZ.

http://globalriskinsights.com/2016/01/risks-loom-for-myanmars-kyaukphyu-economic-zone/

Arakanese nationals arrested by Burma Army

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Sunday, January 24, 2016 0 comments

Yangon (Narinjara)
25 January 2016
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Two Arakanese nationals were arrested by Burma army personnel last week from Sittwe central market. Soon after their arrest, Hsan Win Tun and Arno alias Kyaw Soe Moe were taken away by the army personals to an unknown location, their families claimed.
“On Friday noon, three army personnel in plainclothes first entered into the Sittwe Market.  Later three more army personnel in uniforms arrived there and detained Hsan Win Tun and Kyaw Soe Moe. Both of them were blind-folded and then brought to an army vehicle to take away them,” said the sister of Hsan Win Tun.
The army officials did not explain any reason to the families about the arrest of  Hsan Win Tun and Kyaw Soe Moe, both of whom are at Thirties and used to work at a fish market in Sittwe.
However, the family members apprehended that they were arrested suspecting to some kinds of connection with the recent fighting between the Burma Army and Arakan Army.
The sister of Kyaw Soe Moe also stated that they did not protest against the arrest as the army personnel were in gun-toting mode. She also claimed that no civilian administrator or police personnel were present at the time of arrest. Moreover, they were not given any official letters by the army officials.
Narinjara tried to contact the Sittwe police station through telephone for details, but no one was willing to cooperate on the mater.
Prior to it, three other Arakanese nationals were detained by the army personnel on 21 January suspecting their links with the Arakan Army.
Among the detainees, there was a prominent social worker named Ko Maung Aye from laik  Khamaw village under Kyauk Pru township, whose family members also claimed that they have not given any information by the army officials.
http://narinjara.com/index.php/arakanese-nationals-arrested-by-burma-army/

China’s push to re-engage with its southern neighbour may have unexpected costs

S ince coming to power in 2011, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has distanced the country from its previously tight-knit relationship with China in favour of rapprochement with the west and Japan.

Yet the past few months have seen a determined push by Beijing to re-engage Myanmar economically and politically, reminding Naypyidaw that it sees the country as a key strategic neighbour, particularly in the wake of recent general elections.

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So Chinese officials will have looked on approvingly on December 30 when Myanmar’s parliament gave the go-ahead to the first phase of the Kyaukpyu special economic zone, awarded to a consortium of mostly Chinese companies led by Citic Group.

It is hoped that the $10bn-plus SEZ on Myanmar’s remote south-west coast will complement an existing oil pipeline linking Myanmar and China, in operation since 2013, and serve as a regional hub for logistics and mineral processing.

Citic began feasibility studies for the SEZ as far back as 2007. Yet the Myanmar government failed to award the project several times, partly due to a perceived lack of commercial viability and also because of a cooling in diplomatic relations.

China’s resurgent interest has been driven by growing competition with Japan for strategic influence in Myanmar and by Beijing’s desire to show concrete progress in its “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Japanese investments are planned across a range of infrastructure sectors in Myanmar. Japan has successfully launched the $2bn Thilawa SEZ, a manufacturing hub near Yangon scheduled for completion by the middle of this year, and has shown interest in investing in the Dawei SEZ, a Thailand-backed industrial and logistics zone near the Thai border.
This has spurred a more aggressive response from China, including its first attempt to bankroll large-scale projects in Myanmar since the suspension of the $3.5bn Myitsone hydropower dam project under Thein Sein.

Yet while Kyaukpyu is now backed by China’s political and financial muscle, questions over its commercial and social viability remain unanswered.

Unlike other planned SEZs, it is far from Myanmar’s major cities and its borders with China and Thailand.

Infrastructure will be crucial in making the SEZ commercially viable.

“It is expected that Myanmar would invite the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank to build 800km of new roads to connect Kyaukpyu to the Chinese border”, Win Myint, director of the bid evaluation committee for Kyaukpyu, told FT Confidential Research, a research service at the Financial Times.

Yet the days are gone when Myanmar’s military was able to push through its agenda and nullify local opposition.

Grass roots resistance presents a formidable obstacle to all of Myanmar’s planned SEZs. There is growing public opposition to the perceived domineering role of China and other foreign governments in SEZ megaprojects and to the land acquisition processes that typically accompany them.

Unless Citic and its partners are willing to single-handedly assume the risks of investing in the SEZ and sink billions of dollars in new infrastructure, Kyaukpyu runs the risk of following in Myitsone’s footsteps and getting forever embroiled in Myanmar’s vociferous local politics.
Gavin Bowring is director of research (Asean) at FT Confidential Research.

Follow us on Twitter @em_sqrd

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/3/9337f01a-c032-11e5-9fdb-87b8d15baec2.html#axzz3yAlBVjyT

Local Activist Among Trio Detained in Arakan State

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Friday, January 22, 2016 0 comments


Farmers march in Kyaukphyu in protest of what they describe as unfair compensation for their land, damaged by waste from the Shwe gas project, June 3, 2015. (Photo: Wong Aung / Shwe Gas Movement)
Farmers march in Kyaukphyu in protest of what they describe as unfair compensation for their land, damaged by waste from the Shwe gas project, June 3, 2015. (Photo: Wong Aung / Shwe Gas Movement)
RANGOON — The chair of a local civil society organization and two others were detained in Arakan State’s Kyaukphyu Township on Thursday, according to eyewitnesses, who suggested the trio were accused of having links to the Arakan Army (AA).
Maung Aye, the chair of the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association, and two other unnamed men were detained in Leik Kha Maw village at around midday on Thursday by a group of eight men in plainclothes, presumed to be police or military officers, according to local monk and the brother of Maung Aye, Oo Bawdi.
“Our villagers are very scared now,” said the monk, adding that the plainclothes men were armed.
The village is situated near the Shwe gas project, around 10 km from the town of Kyaukphyu in the coastal western state.
Local villager Maung Yin Daung, who witnessed the arrests, said that when he went to Kyaukphyu police station to make enquiries, police there denied any knowledge of the detainees.
“We heard that they were arrested because of an AA connection,” he said.
Recent conflict between government troops and the Arakan Army broke out in Kyauktaw Township on Dec. 27. Hundreds of local Arakanese people have been forced to flee their homes, with the Burma Army pledging to “remove” the ethnic armed group from Arakan State.
Burma Army troops clashed several times with Arakan Army forces in a number of areas in the western state beginning in late March 2015. Following the fighting, at least 20 people were detained under Burma’s Unlawful Association Law for their alleged links to the armed faction.
According to villagers, Maung Aye was a respected member of the local community who helped address cases of land confiscation and led protests against unfair compensation.
The Irrawaddy contacted the head of Kyaukphyu Township police office, Win Kyi, on Thursday evening, who said that the local police force was not involved and that he had no information on the detainees.

Oo Bawdi claimed Maung Aye was being held by military members from infantry battalion No. 34, an assertion The Irrawaddy could not immediately verify.
http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/local-activist-among-trio-detained-in-arakan-state.html

Ma Phyu: An Arakanese Love Story by An Arakanese

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Wednesday, January 20, 2016 0 comments


Ma Phyu: An Arakanese Love Story 
By An Arakanese

A glorious summer day was fast drawing to a close, in the year 1242 (Burmese Era) when two young men might have been seen wending their way along the Strand Road in Akyab. 

One was a smart looking youth with bright intelligent eyes, rather dark complexion, and a slight moustache.
He was well built, but by the side of his compassion, seemed somewhat below the average height.

His countenance was decidedly pleasing, frankness and animation beaming therefrom, and the soft evening twilight playing about his face, considerably improved his appearance.

His compassion was taller, fair, with massive forehead, rather small eyes, and a small brownish moustache. He wore slight whiskers - an unusual adornment among his country - and this, his style of dress, and his gait, caused him to be regarded as a "swell". They were now on the heart of the Strand where the Municipal Bazaar,  the Port Office, the offices of Mseers. Bulloch Brothers, Messrs. A. Woodward, and all the leading Jew shops are located. Lining the road again are piece-goods stalls whose proprietors are all natives of India driving the sons of the soil as if into the wood.
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PARADISE LOST AT NGAPALI BEACH?

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Friday, January 15, 2016 0 comments

 11 Dec 2015
 

Ngapali Beach continues to lose one of its greatest assets, despite beach sand being unsuitable for construction and regulations banning its removal.


By HANS HULST | FRONTIER
Twenty years ago Ngapali Beach, on the Bay of Bengal in Rakhine State a short drive from Thandwe, was an unspoilt gem in the crown of Myanmar’s natural treasures.
The local population, which had access to the beach, lived mainly from the sea. Every now and then a foreigner could be spotted at one of the few hotels along the foreshore.
Times have changed. Tourism is modest but growing at Ngapali, with a limited number of mid-range and upscale hotels operating in the area. Nearly all the beachfront land has been sold and only a small strip of public beach remains. But the sand is disappearing.
Normally, the sea removes and deposits sand in an everlasting cycle. A beach will gently slope upwards, until it runs into the natural barriers of plant growth and the roots of palm trees. Sand mining at Ngapali has disturbed the natural balance. Sand depths on the beach, one of the most attractive in Southeast Asia, are up to one metre lower than last year, and the slope to the foreshore is steeper.
The removal of the sand has enabled the sea to undermine the foundations of hotel compound boundary walls and the roots of palm trees, many of which fell over this year during the monsoon. Retaining walls for beachfront terraces at the Sandoway Resort and the Merciel Retreat and Resort also collapsed. A hotel being built by the Department of Civil Aviation, a stone’s throw from Thandwe Airport, encountered the same fate. The wall around the compound fell apart.
The Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has been trying to curb the sand mining since 2004. Its most recent effort to stop the illegal use of beach sand was MoHT notification 2/15, dated January 1, 2015. It was followed by notification 1/2015 from the Thandwe General Affairs Department on January 27, which prohibited the removal of beach sand and warned of serious action against those who flouted the rules.
At the DCA hotel development near Thandwe Airport, five workers were shovelling beach sand into bags that were being carried to the site of the building work. They were laughing and clearly unaware they were breaking the law.
“We are from Mrauk Oo,” a dark-skinned boy said, resting on his shovel. “There’s no work there, so we came here to work in construction. The women get K3,500 a day to collect sand from the beach, we men get K5,000 a day.”
In Gaw village, just north of the airport, village head U Naing Naing admitted being involved in sand mining in the past. “But the last six months we have not done this anymore,” he said. “We did not get a permit from the local government.”
One reason why sand mining became an important source of income in Gaw is because the village lacks an adequate supply of ground water for farming. However, U Naing Naing said that even without sufficient farming income and sand mining he had secured K150,000,000 for the village budget.
Where did the money come from?
“I am not telling you,” U Naing Naing said with a smile that exposed betel-stained teeth.
About 200 metres from the village, tyre tracks leading to the beach were an indication that, permit or no permit, demand for beach sand remains strong. A blue Forland truck was parked on the beach, the driver fast asleep at the wheel, as two men shovelled sand into the vehicle.
The workers had no qualms explaining what they were doing. “This sand will be used to extend the main road and for bridge construction 80 kilometres south,” said Ko Wai Moe. “We can do two runs a day,” he said. “Every truckload earns K130,000. We workers get K20,000 each per truckload, and the owner of the truck receives K70,000.”
Oliver E Soe Thet, who runs the Laguna Lodge at Ngapali and is a former advisor to the Union government on Rakhine coastal issues, does not understand why construction companies are not using grey river sand, which only costs K40,000 a truckload.
“Beach sand is not appropriate for construction,” he said.
This concern was echoed in a letter sent by the Myanmar Centre for Responsible Business on April 30 this year to Vice President U Nyan Tun, who chairs the National Land Resource Central Committee. Beach sand is unsuitable for building because its high salinity leads to corrosion, the MCRB said in the letter. “Furthermore, compared to other forms of sand, the round grains of beach sand are smoother from wave action, and lack the sharp edges and corners to grip the cement/concrete matrix … Use of beach sand therefore makes buildings less stable, and prone to collapse,” it said.
Sand excavated from Ngapali’s long, gently curving beach is widely used for construction projects in the area.
Mr Soe Thet said that Sittwe State Hospital was built with chlorinated sea sand. The hospital is falling apart. “The new Ngapali hospital and school will face the same fate,” he said. “It is irresponsible and dangerous.”
In its letter to U Nyan Tun, the MCRB highlighted other negative consequences of removing beach sand. One is that the degradation of Ngapali may hurt tourism, a sector that provides jobs for many Rakhine. Coastal erosion, damaged ecosystems and a reduced ability to withstand natural disasters are among the other side-effects of sand mining.
In a response to the MCRB on May 14, U Nyan Tun, a former naval commander, acknowledged the mining problem and its negative impact on the environment and said he would push for the strict enforcement of rules banning the removal of sand, sources who read the letter told Frontier.
But how much clout does the Union government have in this issue?
During a visit to Ngapali in 2013, President U Thein Sein said he wanted its natural skyline to be preserved – a suggestion possibly inspired by a ban in Bali on buildings higher than palm trees – and noted that a regulation prohibited the removal of beach sand.
Local government officials have since formally allowed sand mining on three beaches. It is not clear if they benefitted financially from their decisions, but it is difficult to imagine that they have not. Authorities on the union and local level are not operating in unison, to put it mildly.
When President U Thein Sein and Vice President Dr Sai Mauk Kham visited Ngapali during this year’s election campaign, mountains of mined beach sand at a construction site for a five-storey hotel were shrouded with blue and green plastic to keep them out of sight, said Mr Soe Thet.
It is not only people with trucks and shovels for mining beach sand who are to blame for damaging the environment, he said.
Some businessmen are resorting to drastic measures. A wetland area the size of three soccer fields near the beach in Zabegyi village, has been covered with sand. The sand was pumped over many months. It is unclear what the owner of the land, U Soe Myint, the mayor of Pyin Oo Lwin and the owner of SM and Associates, is planning to do at the site.
MCRB director Vicky Bowman believes that education is the key to solving the problem.
“We want to try and get environmental experts to come, who can show the medium and long term impacts of taking sand in other beaches, as I think the first problem is people don’t realise it’s a finite resource,” Ms Bowman said. “I would also like to get a program going with schools, but unfortunately UNESCO’s Sandwatch program seems to have run out of funding before it got here,” she said.
The bad news is that the problem is more widespread than realised. “Unfortunately, this isn’t unique to Ngapali,” said Ms Bowman. “It’s happening in Ngwe Saung and also down in Tanintharyi Region in less visible places.”
Mr Soe Thet, who has lived in Myanmar for twenty years and has seen firsthand the effect of mining the sand at Ngapali, said the government needs to act quickly. “What nature has built in thousands of years can be undone by men in just minutes. I hope the National League for Democracy and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi have prepared policies to end the destruction of nature in Ngapali.”

Garbage: another bad odour

Garbage disposal was a problem in the Ngapali and Thandwe areas in the past because of irregular collection times by Thandwe City Development Committee.
An initiative by the Myanmar Chefs Association tried to address the problem by building concrete garbage bins that the TCDC could empty once a week. The first facility, outside Lin Thar village at the southern end of Ngapali Beach, was a runaway success.
In September 2013 the Ngapali hotels, united in the Myanmar Hotelier Association Rakhine, upped the ante. Each hotel donated US$100 a room – the larger hotels $150 a room – to buy two garbage collection trucks. Some of the hotels also paid a fee of $1.50 a guest to cover salary costs for 10 garbage collectors, as well as fuel and maintenance for the trucks.
A Memorandum of Understanding was signed with the TCDC to operate the trucks and collect the garbage.
Ngapali hoteliers say the trucks bought by the MHAR have disappeared. They say that the TCDC has not cleaned the garbage bins since August 2015, which is a reason for the smelly piles of rubbish along the beach road. “Even when we buy the trucks and pay for the fuel and the salaries, the TCDC will not collect garbage,” a hotel owner said on condition of anonymity. “It is ridiculous.”
http://www.frontiermyanmar.net/en/features/paradise-lost-ngapali-beach

Arakan Army Chief: ‘Fresh Clashes Could Break Out at Any Time’

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Monday, January 11, 2016 0 comments

Clashes erupted between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army around Mt. Yam Chaung, in Kyauktaw Township, from Dec. 27 to Jan. 4. Though conflict has subsided, tensions remain high and hundreds of villagers have already been displaced by the fighting.
Myawady Daily, a military-owned newspaper, reported on Jan. 7 that the Burma Army had suffered casualties during the 9-day conflict. The newspaper referred to the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group that has been excluded from peace negotiations, as an insurgent group, vowing that the the government forces would “annihilate” them.
The Irrawaddy recently spoke with Arakan Army Commander-in-Chief Tun Myat Naing about what happened in Kyauktaw and how his views on the peace process.
What is the current situation in Kyauktaw Township?
There is no fighting for the time being, but there is a lot of military activity. [The Burma Army] has brought in reinforcements; Division 66 has also come in. We were clashing with two military operation commands of the Burma Army, Sittwe Regional Operations Command and troops based in Ann Township. As our forces are mobile forces, we fight sometimes and withdraw sometimes, as necessary. We have heard from civilians that Burma Army battalions from Pegu are also coming in. As there is a lot of military activity, fresh clashes could break out at any time.
Would you like to comment on the Jan. 7 issue of Myawady Daily [which states that the Burma Army will annihilate the Arakan ‘insurgents’]?
If issued as a government press release, the government should take more responsibility [to verify facts]. A news report should not be published recklessly. The word ‘annihilate’ reflects [the government’s lack of] political will and implies that they do not want to find a political solution. So it seems that we should give it serious thought and make preparations.
The report said that the Arakan Army had used snipers during the conflict, and is planning to hold talks with terrorist groups at the border to establish a base within the state. Is this true?
This is a baseless accusation intended to ruin our image. The government should not put groundless information and emotions in its newspaper releases. Regarding the conflict, I am not supposed to disclose information about our weapons, forces and tactics as it concerns military security. But I can confirm that no allied force is helping us in these clashes. In Arakan State, we are the sole forces.
How many casualties were there among the Arakan troops?
Two lost their lives and three had minor injuries. They [the Burma Army] took one of the two bodies. They said they took three bodies, but that isn’t true.
At present, the Arakan Army troops are mobile. Do you plan to establish any bases?
Given the circumstances, it would be difficult for us to establish bases right now. We have been in the area for a long time, but the Burma Army didn’t know [hence there had been no prior conflict]. We are active in the area, but not to the extent of provoking conflict. I don’t think we need to receive the recognition of the government as many have suggested, but we believe without a doubt that the Arakan Army has the absolute right to live in Arakan State. We are just now asserting that right.
What are your views on the political dialogue that will begin on Jan. 12?
We have no faith in it, regardless of the words used to describe it. In resolving political problems, we should stop doing things for show and do things that bring real benefit to the country and the people. How can the rest of the ethnic groups accept the NCA [nationwide ceasefire agreement, signed on Oct. 15] while it doesn’t include all of us? Again, the government has said that it has also invited non-signatories, but no one is naïve enough to show up and be exploited while they have no right to participate. They are not as naïve as they were in 1946, 47.
What will the peace process look like under the new government? The military will continue to play a major role in the process, but there are still tensions between the Burma Army and the non-signatories. Will this be a challenge for the new government?
It will be a huge challenge. The next government should boldly take decisive action, rather than trying not to offend the military. If they would avoid doing something because the military might not like it, their slogan—‘time to change’—will come to nothing and we will be at a political impasse. Therefore, they might need a great deal of courage, responsibility and solutions to overcome huge challenges.
The Burma Army is concerned that the Arakan Army will establish its base in Arakan State and this concern might be directly related to the state’s resources. At present, they manage the investments as they please, and hardly anyone will point them out or speak out against them. Therefore, they use military force where they could find a political solution.
Would you like to add any further comments?
It would be best to find a political solution. We are ready for it. It is the best, I would say. If the government wants to make ‘annihilation’ its priority, then we’ll have to find other means.

http://www.irrawaddy.com/interview/arakan-army-chief-fresh-clashes-could-break-out-at-any-time.html

Govt Escalates Rhetoric Against Arakan Army as Casualties Mount

Posted by Arakan Indobhasa Saturday, January 9, 2016 0 comments


 Arakan Army troops on parade in Laiza, Kachin State, in April 2014. (Photo: Moe Myint / The Irrawaddy)
Arakan Army troops on parade in Laiza, Kachin State, in April 2014. (Photo: Moe Myint / The Irrawaddy)
RANGOON — A commander and “several” other members of the Burma Army have been killed in recent fighting with the Arakan Army in Kyauktaw Township, according to state-run media, which on Friday reported that the military intended to “remove” the ethnic armed group from Arakan State.
An incongruous front page of the state-run Global New Light of Myanmar on Friday featured a detailed account of fighting over the period of Dec. 28-Jan. 4. Above the article was reported the latest developments in the government-led peace process with non-state armed groups who have signed a so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement with Naypyidaw, a grouping of eight that does not include the Arakan Army.
The former report said the Burma Army commander was shot and killed by sniper fire from the Arakan Army. The Burma Army seized arms and other equipment from the ethnic armed group as it mounted an operation to clear the Ranchaung area in Kyauktaw Township of the rebel group, according to the report, which described the Arakan Army as “insurgents.”
An apparent discrepancy between English- and Burmese-language state dailies on Friday described the military as having alternately “captured” and recovered the dead bodies of three Arakan Army soldiers.
Yan Naing Soe, the deceased Burma Army commander, was killed on Dec. 31, according to an obituary printed in state-run newspapers this week. In an unexplained curiosity, the commander’s obituary ran twice, first stating that he had succumbed to sudden illness, and one day later revising the cause of death to explain that he was killed in the line of duty.
Hundreds of local Arakanese people have fled their homes due to the fighting. About 500 Kyauktaw Township locals on Thursday protested the conflict.
The Burmese-language state-run daily The Mirror reported that the Arakan Army sought assistance from a “Kalar terrorism” illegal armed group along the border with Bangladesh, “Kalar” being a derogatory term in Burmese for individuals of South Asian descent.
The report in The Mirror went on to accuse some Arakan Army members of splitting up and retreating to Mrauk-U, Minbya and Kyauktaw townships, where they were said to be laying low by attempting to pass as civilians while planning to carry out future “terrorism.”

“They have no commitment to what they are doing, and they just threaten the people or even try to divide trust between the people,” said the report in Friday’s edition of The Mirror, which originated from the military mouthpiece Myawaddy.

http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/govt-escalates-rhetoric-against-arakan-army-as-casualties-mount.html


 The Arakan Army’s 5th anniversary celebrations in Laiza, Kachin State, April 2014. (Photo: Moe Myint / The Irrawaddy)
The Arakan Army’s 5th anniversary celebrations in Laiza, Kachin State, April 2014. (Photo: Moe Myint / The Irrawaddy)
RANGOON — The Arakan Army said it has clashed with government troops on more than 20 occasions since fighting broke out in Arakan State’s Kyauktaw Township on Sunday. At least one civilian was reportedly injured during ongoing fighting, according to a local relief group.
The Arakan Army (AA)’s Col Nyo Twan Awng said clashes had continued over four consecutive days near the Ram Chaung tributary in Kyauktaw Township, with several AA soldiers killed or wounded.
“Government soldiers are patrolling in the AA’s operating area and that’s why skirmishes broke out,” Nyo Twan Awng said. “We need to ask the government why they are using excessive military force to fight us.”
The AA colonel claimed at least 20 Burma Army troops had been killed, an assertion that could not be immediately verified by The Irrawaddy. Hla Thein, head of public relations for the Arakan State government, was contacted for comment but declined to be drawn on military matters.
The armed group also claimed government troops used mortars during attacks which first broke outnear the Sittwe-Rangoon highway in Kyauktaw Township, northern Arakan State, on Sunday.
Tun Khin, a community leader in Kyauktaw Township, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that villagers in some conflict-affected areas of the township had fled their homes to escape fighting.
Maung Win of a Kyauktaw-based relief organization said a local of Thapyuchaung village, Maung Than Sein, sustained a bullet wound and was now being treated at Sittwe Hospital. Several local reporters have claimed that the victim was acting as a porter for the Burma Army at the time he was shot.
Burma Army troops clashed several times with Arakan Army forces in a number of areas in the western state beginning in late March.
The Arakan Army is also based in Laiza, Kachin State, where the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is headquartered, and has been active in conflict areas where the KIA, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) have clashed with government troops.

The government declined to allow the TNLA, AA and MNDAA to sign the so-called nationwide ceasefire agreement concluded in mid-October, while the KIA, alongside several other major ethnic armed groups, withheld its signature.

http://www.irrawaddy.com/burma/clashes-continue-between-arakan-army-and-govt-troops-in-kyauktaw-township.html

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