AA Pushes Myanmar Military on Prisoner Exchange

By Min Aung Khine 26 November 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—The Arakan Army (AA) has again offered to release Myanmar security personnel in exchange for the release of individuals detained by the military for alleged affiliation with the AA.

The armed group released a statement last Wednesday saying it was willing to exchange an additional 13 soldiers recently captured during a clash in Paletwa, Chin State, for prisoners held by the Myanmar military.

“We said in our previous statement that if the Myanmar military and Myanmar government release all Rakhine civilians unfairly detained and charged using various excuses, we will in return release prisoners of war,” said AA information officer Khaing Thukha.

The previous statement by the AA included a list of 17 police and soldiers the group abducted in October from a ferry in Rathedaung Township.

“If the Myanmar Tatmadaw [military] will release, unharmed, all civilians unfairly detained and charged using various excuses in Rakhine State as well as those arrested and charged for alleged ties to the AA, we are ready to release all those affiliated with the military named on the attached list unharmed,” read the previous statement, released in early November.

Military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun said in response to the first statement that the military would not negotiate with terrorists.

In its statement released last Wednesday, the AA said that it captured 13 more soldiers on Nov. 19, including a major and a lieutenant, when it clashed with Light Infantry Battalion 313 in the southwest of Pa Ka Wa Village, Paletwa Township.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesperson for the military’s Western Command, denied that the AA had captured any military personnel or that there was any clash at all.

“It is misinformation. There was no clash in Paletwa on Nov. 19,” Col. Win Zaw Oo told The Irrawaddy last Wednesday.

On Sunday, the ethnic armed group subsequently published photos of 13 military personnel allegedly captured during the fighting in Paletwa.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun or Col. Win Zaw Oo for further comment.

When asked by The Irrawaddy which individuals the armed group would prioritize if the military is unwilling to release all prisoners, Khaing Thuka replied that he would share the details only when the Tatmadaw has said it is willing to carry out the exchange. More than 100 civilians have been detained in Rakhine on suspicion of having ties to the AA.

“If they will release them all, we have a plan to release all those we have detained. For the time being, we have no plan to share details,” Khaing Thuka told The Irrawaddy.

Khaing Thuka said the AA would continue to detain military personnel unless the government and the military release Rakhine civilians. He added that the AA would ensure that their conditions and treatment are in line with international rules and regulations regarding prisoners of war.

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