Nay Pyi Taw, May 4
Commander-in-Chief of Defence Services Senior General Min Aung Hlaing held talks with permanent envoys of UNSC led by Mr. Gustavo Meza Cuadra Velasquez at the meeting hall of Bayintnaung Villa here on 30 April evening. The news about the meeting has already been released. Here are the points of the meeting.
At the meeting, the Senior General said the Myanmar Tatmadaw heartily welcomes the permanent envoys and leader of UNSC member states, and ambassadors led by the Ambassador of Peru. It is known that the envoys are the persons studying the latest developments of the relations between Myanmar and Bangladesh. Now they will have the opportunity to witness the real situation on the ground. The Senior General expressed hope that they will now understand more about the real situation on the ground in Myanmar. The Senior General said offi cials of the Tatmadaw are present here for envoys to inquire about and discuss the points they would like to know. It is hoped that the meeting will ensure the opportunity to exchange views, have wider information about the real situation and overcome the problem. Envoys can frankly express their views.
Permanent envoy of UNSC of New York Ambassador of Peru Mr. Gustavo Meza Cuadra Velasquez expressed thanks for the meeting and the opportunity to exchange views. The meeting is of vital importance. The envoys see the events occurred between Myanmar and Bangladesh resulting from the refugees as a very important matter. Before visiting Myanmar, enjoys met with refugees at Cox’s Bazar and got a lot of information from them. Envoys witnessed the hardships in connection with the humanitarian issue the refugees were facing. During the meeting the refugees told us that they wanted to resettle in Myanmar. Concerning the matter, the UNSC is giving priority on the resettlement of the refugees of own wish and ensuring them to return with honour and safety. He asked the Tatmadaw’s plans for the security of the refugees when they return.
In response the Senior General said the Ministry of Home Affairs is taking the responsibility of the security of the refugees. The Tatmadaw has no direct role in the matter. The ensuring of security and honour for refugees who return on own volition is important. They should come on own wish and not under the infl uence of any other person.
They are facing threats. For example there are the threats of the ARSA in connection with their resettlement. The Tatmadaw will cooperate and consult with the officials responsible for security in providing joint protection and security. Before the refugees fl ed to Bangladesh, there broke out terrorist attacks in which Myanmar ethnics were murdered by terrorist Bengalis in Rakhine State. Because of the terrorism and killings 72 Myanmar ethnics died and 13 were wounded up to 2018 April 30. They should prevent the occurrence of further terrorist attacks.
There is no need to be worried about their security if they stay in the areas designated for them. The Tatmadaw cannot directly involve in the security of refugees. Troops conducting security in the area have already been withdrawn. Border police force under the Ministry of Home Affairs is taking this responsibility. The Tatmadaw had the duty to safeguard the country. Moreover, it also has the duty to protect the ethnic races living in the area. So the Tatmadaw has the duty to protect the ethnic races from any kind of terrorist attacks. If there are no terrorist attacks against the ethnic races, the Tatmadaw will take no action. As the Bengalis who would re-enter the country are worried about their security, the ethnic races too are worried about the intimidation they would face again.
Envoys should take into account this point. If the two sides live in harmony, there would not be any anxieties in connection with the security issue.
Mr. Mansour Alotaibi, permanent envoy of Kuwait said although it was a short visit to refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar they could meet with refugee families, men, women, elders and children. The refugees told us that they did not run away of own wish for settlement; that they left their place as there were terrible intimidations in Myanmar.
They wanted to go back to Myanmar but they were hesitant as they did not feel safe. Concerning the matter there are suggestions for security given by the commission led by Kofi Anan. The suggestions include the role of the Tatmadaw. He wanted to know whether the Tatmadaw was able to realize the suggestions and the length of time it will take to realize the suggestions and the conviction.
In response to the Kuwaiti envoy who said that the refugees ran away out of fear, the Senior General said the reason behind the cause must be taken into account. The area faced three terrorist attacks – in 2012, 2016 and 2017. Of them the terrorist attack in 2016 is the worst. During the incident police outposts and police headquarters were attacked, a large number of people were murdered and lots of weapons were lost. Because of that experience the attacks against police security posts were effectively put down during the incident in 2017 August similar to that of 2016, so the ARSA did not get any success. They ran away because of their involvement in terrorist attacks.
The Senior General expressed belief that refugees did not fl ee to Bangladesh only out of fear. One possibility is that they fl ee because of the ARSA’s death threats against them if they continue to stay. ARSA in trying to seize the outposts did not get success. It was impossible for ARSA to leave alone. It is possible that the ARSA threaten others to flee together with them. Another fact was that the refugees were organized to go to a third country. Bengalis will never say that they arrive there happily. They will get sympathy and rights only if they say that they face a lot of hardships and persecution.
The Tatmadaw has the duty to protect the people if there occur armed terrorist attacks. However, beginning 2017 September 5 Tatmadaw troops doing security duty were withdrawn because there were no terrorist attacks. Currently, police troops under the Home Ministry are taking the security duty of the area. Tatmadaw will act under the approval of the government if and when necessary. The main fact is that the security in Rakhine State is being undertaken by the relevant organizations. The representatives will witness this when they arrive at conflict areas, and can ask questions openly.
Permanent representative Mr. Olof Skoog from Sweden said the UNSC raised much concern over Myanmar violating human rights. It wants to launch an investigation into the human rights violated by security forces and He then asked for the Senior General’s opinion about that.
The Senior General said talking about the matter of a fact-fi nding mission from the UNSC, the incidents that happened in Buthidaung and Maungtaw in northern Rakhine State are the internal issue. The international community has come to intervene as the issue is being exaggerated. Regarding the incidents that occurred in 2012 and 2016, the investigation commission led by a vice-president carried out investigations. Moreover, a Tatmadaw investigation team led by Lt-Gen Aye Win carried out investigations. All the fi ndings are true and correct. Then, action was taken against the offenders and those responsible.
Meanwhile, some ethnic people were killed and the culprits are still at large. Some of them were arrested and faced action. As regards the above matters, Myanmar has acquired facts and information that should be taken into account. If some organizations come to Myanmar to act as they like, the situation may change. The necessary investigations internally made by Myanmar are assumed to be enough. However, the Senior General said he could not make a decision and it is up to the government.
Mr. Anatolio Ndong Mba, permanent representative from Equatorial New Guinea said the Ministry of Border Affairs and the Ministry of Home Affairs are indirectly under the Tatmadaw’s command. It is learnt that land mines are planted in the area of Myanmar to which refugees are planning to come. So, hundreds of thousands of refugees could face danger if they step on those land mines. As the rainy season nears, children and elderly people are vulnerable to fl oods and strong winds. It is believed that the Tatmadaw will motivate those victims to come back safely.
The UN organizations namely OHCHR, UNDP, UNHCR, WHO and FAO are ready to provide aid to them. Therefore, the Tatmadaw will help the returning victims with a positive attitude.
The Senior General said there were no land mines in the area. They might have been planted by other armed groups. Two or three similar incidents have been experienced. Entrances have been designated at the border for the returnees. The Tatmadaw accepts that it will take full responsibility if they enter the country through those designated entrances and they will be free from danger. When it comes to security affairs, he said unless there are armed clashes, the Tatmadaw will not be responsible for security. But the Tatmadaw has full responsibility if there arise armed clashes. Police forces engage in ordinary security affairs. The issue that is more than an ordinary security matter has to be dealt with by the Tatmadaw. This does not mean the Tatmadaw has no responsibility at all, he said.
As for the returnees, the Senior General said the Tatmadaw is ready to provide aid to them. It is also ready to render necessary assistance in all parts of the country. They therefore don’t need to worry about the Tatmadaw. However, the Tatmadaw cannot help of its own accord. Assistance comes only when the government asks for. But the Tatmadaw is allowed to render assistance in times of emergency and natural disasters. This is allowed by the government. The Tatmadaw cannot do anything beyond the law.
Deputy permanent representative Ms. Anne Christine Marie Gueguen from France said she raised great concern over the Bengalis who are arriving in Bangladesh. They are now a stateless society in the world. The UNSC issued a resolution regarding Myanmar. The resolution was regarded as a roadmap. For the incidents that happened in Rakhine State, a comprehensive solution should be sought. She said she recognizes Myanmar’s preparations to repatriate the victims.
However, any effective action has not been found so far. So, Myanmar is urged to speed up cooperation with UNDP and UNHCR. She said she wanted to ask two questions. The Senior General said after Lt-Gen Aye Win made investigations, punishments were imposed to the culprits. Regarding this what kind punishment was given to them, she asked. She also wanted to know about any plan to prevent further incident. It was learnt that Tatmadaw members committed sexual abuse. The country needs to work together with the UN by building mutual trust in order to seek cooperation from international organizations.
She said she wanted to know any plan for this. Humanitarian aid organizations have no access to Rakhine State. This region needs humanitarian assistance. She said she also wanted to know about this. All the remaining representatives were allowed to ask questions simultaneously due to time constraint. Permanent representative Ms. Karen Pierce from Britain asked how many troops were sent to the confl ict region regarding the incident that happened on 25 August in 2017. The UNSC cannot accept any act of terrorism. There should be a balance between attack and counter-attack.
Permanent representative Mr. Tekeda Alemu from Ethiopia said he found the images featuring atrocities in the report they had received. She expressed thanks for the report. The representative expressed his sadness for causing such cases. He said the Senior General would have a benefit for sharing information with him at the meeting.
The representative said they had never seen the photos before. He said he understood emotion and responsibilities of the Senior General and party. He felt trembling in seeing those facing worse problems at a time when they visited Cox’s Bazar. They saw many children and they were diffi cult to put talks of children under suspicion. In that regard, the representative sought the opinion of the Senior General.
Deputy Permanent Representative of the United States of America Ms. Kelley Currie said the Senior General mentioned the events were internal affairs. But, as 700,000 persons arrived in other country beyond the boundary of Myanmar, it cannot be said Myanmar’s internal affairs. It becomes an issue which would affect international security and peace.
So, it cannot be set an issue of internal affairs. Permanent Secretary of Kazakhstan Mr. Kairat Umarov said although they heard many rape cases, as there were three cases investigated by the Myanmar Tatmadaw, it should be reviewed. As more than 700,000 persons from Myanmar arrived in other country the US representative discussed, it is an international issue, not for an issue of Myanmar only. In observing the documentary photos related to the event, he understood the problems being handled by the Senior General. He would not like to talk about who committed the cases or not. He would like to take cooperation of Myanmar with the UN to seek the way for relieving fear of those to return the natives. As there were many numbers of persons in other country, saying that they were raped, the representative said it is a situation to believe them. As such, the representative urged the Senior General to sign and cooperate with the UN machinery in necessary cases.
Deputy Permanent Secretary from China Mr. Wu Haitao said they saw more stability at the border between Myanmar and Bangladesh. The main aim of the UN Security Council is to ensure resettlement of refugees from other country in the natives. It is of importance not only for Myanmar but also for Bangladesh. They have known Myanmar and Bangladesh have signed the agreement for such issue. He said they are waiting for progress how to rapidly and effectively implement the issue. They hoped for rapid sending of refugees to the natives through bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
The issue was set as a very important one. Deputy Permanent Representative from Russia Mr. Dmitry Polyanskiy said they came to Myanmar not to do as judges, but as friends of Myanmar. He said he knows the important role of Myanmar Tatmadaw in Myanmar. But, he said the Senior General might have known descriptions in international media this period. Such accusation creates anxieties for them. He expressed his hope to know how to solve such accusations in a transparent manner. Such problems encroach on prestige of the Myanmar Tatmadaw as well as that of the entire Myanmar.
As it is time to solve the issues which are right or which are wrong, he would like to know how to solve the issue. On their arrival in Bangladesh, the military organization of Bangladesh informed them about Myanmar’s deployment of more number of strength at the border. If it is true, he would like to know its purpose. He would like to know whether the strength of servicemen was assigned to ensure security of border region or not.
Permanent Secretary of Bolivia Mr. Sacha Sergio Liorentty Soliz said the UN Security Council is formed with 193 countries. Those 193 countries are concerned about the situation of Myanmar. They are worried about that the current situation would worsen. Their worries are not only for the challenge of humanitarian but also for emphasizing terrorism. He is diffi cult to understand the problems of incorrectness of fi lling up the documents involved in the process to return to Myanmar.
In response to the questions and discussions of the representatives, the Senior General explained he thanked all representatives for their open discussions. He would like to reply to all without referring to the specific names of countries. For the first point regarding taking action against those who broke crimes, the Senior General said that the Tatmadaw Act was promulgated for the Tatmadaw. Action is taken against those who involved in the cases under such act. No one was relieved in punishment. He said he would like to explain rape case. As Myanmar is a Buddhist country, it had never excused for rape case, especially for cases committing against women. Based on data collected by the Tatmadaw, a total of 1,116 rape cases happened in civilian and military affairs across the nation in 2016, 16 of which caused in the Tatmadaw and 1,100 of which happened in civilian affairs. The Tatmadaw handed down 20 years’ imprisonment to rapists in military affairs. Moreover, a total of 1,422 rape cases including 17 cases in military affairs were prosecuted at the court across the nation in 2017. Those who committed the cases were punished 20 years’ imprisonment.
The Senior General continued to say that he heard refugees who fl ed to Bangladesh said they were raped by the Myanmar Tatmadaw. The Central Committee for the Implementation of Peace and Development in Rakhine State chaired by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has said if rape cases happen, the victims need to inform the committee which will take action against all complaints. The committee said if the victims will make complaints, action will be taken by opening the fi le of cases not only for carrying out prosecution in Bangladesh but also for making complaints in Myanmar.
However, there is no complaint till today. The Senior General noted that the representatives need to consider the fact that it is a nature to exaggerate the rape case any country does not accept. Moreover, such case is not related to culture of Myanmar. The Tatmadaw does not totally accept such case. The government has declared its cooperation with the United Nations over such issue. The Tatmadaw will continue to help the endeavours of the government. A team led by Lt-Gen Aye Win made investigations for the events which happened in 2016 and 2017. He said it was estimated that those who attacked on the security troops and villages in 2017 would be between 6,000 and 10,000 of strengths.
The Tatmadaw has investigated more than 3,200 witnesses and more than 800 persons confessed in writings. Reviewing their confession, it was found the strengths between 6,000 and 10,000 committed terrorist acts. Permanent Representative of Britain Ms. Karen Pierce asked about number of strengths of the Tatmadaw in countering the terror attacks.
In his replies, the Senior General said that the majority would calculate that the Tatmadaw may use at least equal number of strength in countering the terrorists. He said he has made discussions on such case with offi cials from the international community many times. The Tatmadaw on the security duty deployed the very lesser number of strength than the terrorists. In counting the digits, the deployment of strengths by the Tatmadaw was far lesser than 6,000 terrorists of minimum digit. Exactly, the Tatmadaw deployed more than 1,000 servicemen in the event, and it did not exceed 2,000 servicemen.
The Tatmadaw deployed its strengths between 1,000 and 2,000. He said he has given the report books to the representatives. They may read it. The book of report consists of documentary photos of terrorists who committed crimes. Besides the books, memory sticks that include publicized information are given to you formally. Those records contain many of their cruel acts. Though we released complete information to the international community, some information was blacked out. As a result, the international community did not get the information we released.
Regarding the claim that we did not work enough because we only took action against perpetrators in three cases, I would say that we took action against every case we could investigate. The latest crime we punished was a killing, and ten years’ imprisonment was given to seven perpetrators. We will not forgive anyone if they commit crime.
There are claims that the Tatmadaw have been committing crimes across the country not only the cases in Rakhine State. We investigated all the allegations against the Tatmadaw, and punished all the perpetrators. The Tatmadaw does not tolerate any of its member committing crimes.
The Senior General said that the Tatmadaw is the armed forces that represent Myanmar, and is the only armed forces in the country. The Tatmadaw is responsible to protect Myanmar, and as it represents Myanmar, it understands well that it is not allowed to break international rules and regulations. We were criticized for our press releases about our actions in Rakhine State against the fake news published by international news agencies. So I would like to request you to thoroughly read our press releases. Our Tatmadaw represents Myanmar, and though I am the head of the Tatmadaw, our country has the President. And we Tatmadaw take actions under the leadership of the President.
Our Tatmadaw is under the guidance of the Myanmar government. We only take action according to the mandate given by the law and we are not authorized to do anything beyond the boundaries of law. However, the majority have misunderstanding on the Tatmadaw.
Regarding the repatriation of refugees who fl ed to Bangladesh, we said that we are ready for repatriation as of 23 January, 2018. However, Bangladesh is very slow in response. As you have discussed earlier, one of the problems is that data fi lled in repatriation forms are incomplete. According to the agreement between the two countries, complete data must be provided. You should understand that we could not verify them without complete data. We are ready to start repatriation according to the bilateral agreement. If you go and see on 1 May, you will be able to see our arrangements for repatriation. You can also directly ask anyone on your trip then.
The Senior General said that we have frankly talked to Bangladesh about what had happened. Bangladesh is worried that we have made military preparations, but we did not. I assumed that Bangladesh said so because of excessive concern. There is an area where borders of Myanmar, Bangladesh and India meet, and it is true that Tatmadaw troops are deployed there because there is an armed insurgent group there. However, there are no Tatmadaw troops on Myanmar- Bangladesh border. The Tatmadaw has not committed any act against the bilateral agreement. The Tatmadaw has recorded all of its actions since Myanmar regained independence in 1948. Should the Tatmadaw commit offences against citizens, it is willing to accept retrospective punishments. We will write our history. We imposed fi ve years’ imprisonment on a division commander responsible for offences against ethnic civilians, and sentenced a Tatmadawman to two years in prison though he committed killing in self-defense. In addition, there were cases in which we gave ten year’s imprisonment for deliberate killing of an ethnic civilian; one year’s imprisonment for hurting, and ten years’ imprisonment for Inn Din killings.
Those cases indicate that Tatmadaw does not forgive perpetrators. All the actions of the Tatmadaw and the government are informed to the public, but when those press releases reach the international community, they became false news. Reports based on those false news are therefore also wrong. The international community is requested to treat those reports with rationality. The Tatmadaw strictly enforces discipline as it represents the country.
The deputy permanent representative of the US to the UN said that Rakhine case is an international issue. The problems happened in 2012 and 2016 in Rakhine State are domestic problems and investigation was made internally. As Bengalis fl ed to Bangladesh, we made necessary cooperation with international agencies.
The Senior General said that what he said was the reality, and that Tatmadaw accepted provision of humanitarian assistance. But it is important that there is equality in providing assistance to living in the area, and the wishes of local ethnic people are extremely important. Works will be successful only when their wishes are heeded. Representatives are requested to ask them carefully in their Rakhine State visit on 1 May. There is no restriction and representatives are free to go anywhere and ask anyone. We would like to solve armed confl icts, riots and disputes and live amicably together with neighbours and world’s countries. The Tatmadaw is desperate to have everything that will improve the country and satisfy the people along the political path we are taking.