31 Charged Over Unlawful Association with Arakan Army
By Min Aung Khine 2 June 2015
RANGOON — A total of 31 Arakan locals from townships across the state are being prosecuted under the Unlawful Association Act for their alleged connections to the Arakan Army.
Since clashes broke out between the military and the ethnic armed group on Mar. 29, 32 people have been arrested on suspicion of associating with the Arakan Army. One remains under interrogation while 31 are currently standing trial, scheduled to make their second appearance at the Kyauktaw Township court on June 2 and 4, according to Maj. Khin Maung, the head of the township police force.
“We investigated and found that they broke Article 17(a) and (b) [of the Act],” said Khin Maung. “We concluded their actions were against the law.”
The two charges carry a maximum combined sentence of eight years’ imprisonment.
After being detained by the military’s Kyauktaw-based No. 9 Operations Command in April, most of the defendants were remanded in police custody on May 3 and committed to trial on May 28.
The Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw Lawyers Associations have announced they will act for the defendants free of charge.
Locals are concerned over increased police and military activity in the state since the recent fighting began, with reports that authorities have stepped up late night visits to village homes in the search for unregistered guests.
“We locals have to rely on forests for our livelihood,” said Maung Aye Soe, a member of the Arakan National Party’s Kyauktaw executive committee. “With the military arresting people on suspicion, locals do not dare enter the forests. The authorities visit our houses to check whether there are guests staying overnight. It’s no good.”
According to lawyer Aye Nu Sein, who assisting with the defense, the 31 committed to trial reside in Sittwe, Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Buthitaung, Yathaetaung, Minbya and Kyaukphyu.