AA Frees 16 Myanmar Govt Employees After Abduction

By Min Aung Khine 2 January 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—The Arakan Army (AA) on Wednesday released 16 Transport Ministry staff it abducted from a ferry in Rakhine State the previous day.

The AA said in a statement that it handed over the abductees to administrators and community elders in the village of Thay Kan in Buthidaung Township on Wednesday morning after determining they had no ties to the Myanmar military.

Maungdaw District administrator U Soe Aung confirmed the release. “We have asked the village administrator to take them to Buthidaung Township,” he told The Irrawaddy.

According to military spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun, the 16 civil servants work for the Road Transport Administration Department overseen by the Ministry of Transport and Communications. All are drivers working for government-led rehabilitation programs in Maungdaw.

The AA abducted them from a ferry traveling from the Rakhine State capital Sittwe to Buthidaung at noon on Tuesday.

In its statement, the rebel group reiterated its demand that people inform it if they are to travel in groups in war-ravaged Rakhine State. The group earlier warned transportation companies, both road- and waterway-based, to inform it of their movements to avoid “unnecessary consequences” in zones where it is fighting the Myanmar military.

The AA abducted a director of the military-backed telecom operator Mytel along with his driver on Dec. 23, according to the Myanmar military.

U Ye Thein, chairman of the National League for Democracy’s Buthidaung Township office, died on Dec. 25 while being detained by the AA. The rebel group said he was killed by a military strike on one of its outposts in Buthidaung, but the Myanmar military denied engaging in any fighting in Buthidaung that day.

On Dec. 24, the rebel group abducted three immigration officers including an assistant director from a ferry in Buthidaung Township.

AA chief Major-General Tun Myat Naing earlier revealed a plan to form Rakhine people’s authority groups and levy taxes on infrastructure projects and businesses in areas of Rakhine and Chin states under its control, effective this year.

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