Security has been beefed up along the Myanmar-Thai border in response to rumors and scaremongering on social media, according to a member of the Kayin (Karen) State Border Guard Force.
“Public concerns are high due to propaganda and indoctrination. We are providing security to prevent unwanted problems," said Major Naing Maung Zaw, secretary of the Kayin State Border Guard Forces (BGF)’s central command. "The public feel more at ease [now] as they can see us conducting additional security measures."
He said that patrols around Myawaddy have increased since September 9. A 100-member team comprised of the Tatmadaw, the BGF, the police, a people’s militia, religious leaders, members of the public and local administrators have been cooperating to conduct security rounds inside and outside the town, he said.
Maj Naing Maung Zaw urged members of the public to cooperate by not spreading or listening to propaganda. He advised them to inform the authorities if they see anything suspicious.
“Since security has been tightened due to online rumors, the public is not afraid anymore, but they are still being cautious,” said a resident of Myawaddy, who did not want to be named.
Rumors of impending terrorist attacks have been widely circulated on social media since the office of the Tatmadaw Commander-in-Chief warned on September 5 that commercial and political hubs like Yangon, Nay Pyi Taw, Mandalay and Mawlamyine could be targeted by the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), a group the government has declared an “extremist terrorist” organization.
Ongoing fighting between ARSA and the Tatmadaw has been restricted to northern Rakhine State. Violence flared there after ARSA staged coordinated, lethal attacks against security posts on August 25. Almost 27,000 people have since been evacuated or displaced from the conflict area, according to the government, while more than 300,000 people have fled to neighboring Bangladesh, according to UN estimates.
In the wake of the security warning, Mon State has also reportedly boosted security rounds in order to quell public fear.