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Burma’s Minister for Home Affairs Lt-Gen Kyaw Swe told reporters on Monday that prisoners under investigation for recent attacks on border police in Arakan State are being treated in accordance with the law.
“There are currently 16 individuals in custody and the ICRC can come look at them anytime,” he said, referring to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which monitors treatment of prisoners.
Speaking to reporters outside of the Maungdaw Township government office, the army-appointed minister said there was “no unlawful conduct, no torture” involved in the interrogation of people suspected of involvement in the attacks, which began on 9 October.
“What I want to say is we are strictly following the law — we will not do anything that is not in accordance with the law.”
He made the remarks amid concerns expressed by human rights advocates about the number of people who have been killed over the past week.
At a press conference held in Naypyidaw on Monday afternoon, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Aung Soe said that 30 “terrorists” — 28 men and two women — had been killed so far.
“Since the first day of the incident to the date, there have been five deaths among the Tatmadaw [armed forces] servicemen, and nine among the police, including one officer. In addition, a police official and two other ranking personnel were also injured,” he said.
The press conference, which was joined by a delegation of senior government officials who went to Maungdaw last week, included Information Minister Pe Myint, Deputy Minister of Defence Maj-Gen Myint Nwe, acting Foreign Minister Kyaw Tint Swe, Deputy Border Affairs Minister Maj-Gen Than Htut, and Police Chief Zaw Win.
Kyaw Swe, the home affairs minister, also told the reporters that police Brig-Gen Maung Maung Khin, who was commander of the Maungdaw border police at the time of the attacks, had been replaced.
“Police Brig-Gen Thura San Lwin has been assigned duty as the [new commander of border police in Maungdaw]. The Home Affairs Ministry rewards those who perform well, but also punishes the incompetent,” he said.
He also vowed to continue with efforts to secure the area in the wake of the attacks, regardless of concerns about mounting casualties.
“The police force in coordination with its brother organisation the Tatmadaw [armed forces] will protect every inch of our land from invasion. You may include that in your report,” he said.
While reiterating that the security effort would be carried out lawfully, he added that local residents “must abide by our rules when they are in Burma” — implying that people living in the area were not rightful inhabitants of the country.
“Otherwise they should get out,” he added.