Who is he?
Dr. Aye Maung is chairman of the Rakhine Nationalities Development Party (RNDP) and a member of parliament of the Union of Myanmar representing Rakhine state in western Myanmar.
Although the RNDP was only formed in 2010, Aye Maung is often seen as an influential figure because his party holds the majority of seats in the Rakhine state parliament and has wide support among ethnic Rakhines. Rakhine is the only state/region in which the powerful military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party is not the largest political party.
Why is he in the news?
Aye Maung is notoriously known for his stance against the Muslim Rohingyas in Rakhine, many of whom originally migrated from Bangladesh but have lived in western Myanmar for generations. Since violence first erupted between Rakhine Buddhists and Muslim Rohingyas in June, he has repeatedly called for the segregation and resettlement of the Rohingyas in third countries, as well as objecting any granting of citizenship to the Rohingyas.
Aye Maung has often sought to ignite Rakhine nationalistic sentiment against Muslims during his public appearances. When the government declared a state of emergency in Rakhine in October following the latest outbreak of violence originating in the town of Kyaukpyu and the president’s office announced that an armed group was responsible, it was implicitly understood that Aye Maung had called for and supported this new round of armed conflict.
What can we expect from him?
As the Myanmar government recently began an operation to verify Rohingya citizenship, Aye Maung will likely respond by resorting further to Rakhine nationalism, and could even resort to call on Buddhist Rakhine youth to take up arms in order to defend their territory. The situation is especially volatile since many Buddhist monks across the country have often expressed support for the RNDP position (e.g., by holding anti-Muslim protests in major cities and towns).
The United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimated in November that more than 35,000 people have been displaced by inter-communal violence in Rakhine, and this number could greatly increase in case of further outbreaks of violence in the region.