12 More Chin Abductees Escaped AA Captors Last Month: Rights Group
By Chit Min Tun 4 July 2019
YANGON—Twelve villagers abducted by the Arakan Army in Chin State’s Paletwa Township in February escaped in the last week of June, a rights group said.
The 12 were among 54 residents of Kin Talin Village abducted by the AA on Feb. 2, the Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC) said.
Kin Talin is a small village with 35 households and 158 people. On the day of the abductions, many Kin Talin residents were in the village of Mee Za, some 20 miles away. They were building new homes in the neighboring village, fearing that they would soon be forced to flee Kin Talin due to armed clashes in the area between the AA and the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw), the KACC said.
The 54 villagers who remained in Kin Talin that day were abducted by the AA and taken to a location on the Bangladeshi border, the group said.
Twelve of the detainees including five children managed to escape on June 24, taking the total number of escapees to 14, after two managed to flee in April.
A relative of one of the 12 escapees said on condition of anonymity: “During heavy rain on the night of June 24, they ran away. It took then a day and a night to reach us on June 26. They said they ran away as the guards could not see them clearly due to the rain. They said one female detainee died in AA custody; she was sick and there was no medicine.”
The relative said the escapees recounted being separated from one another and forced to work on a farm, collecting firewood and cooking.
AA information officer Khaing Thuka denied that the group had abducted the villagers, saying they were moved for their own safety. “They are staying near the ‘zero line’ [demarcating a buffer zone] on the Bangladeshi border. They are allowed to go anywhere freely. There is no restriction. We aren’t detaining them,” he told The Irrawaddy.
He said the AA took them to the border because they had been trapped by fighting in the area.
“It’s not a question of us allowing or not allowing them to return. They can stay or leave as they wish. We helped them when their lives were at risk. Later, they stayed [in the area] of their own free will. They can go anywhere they like. We have nothing to do with them,” he added.
Clashes broke out between the AA and the Tatmadaw in Chin State in November 2018 and later spread to Rakhine State. The clashes have forced more than 2,000 people in Paletwa from their homes.
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