YANGON—The Arakan Army (AA) said it would release eight construction company employees it abducted in southern Chin State more than two months ago, but not until relative stability returns to the area.
“We planned to release them through community elders. But, as the [Myanmar] military attacks grew more intense, no one dared to come and meet us. There are some security problems [making it difficult] to send them back. So, we can’t release them for the time being. But we’ll release them [eventually],” said AA information officer Khaing Thukha.
On March 30, the AA abducted 13 employees—11 men and two women—of the Hsu Htoo San Construction Co., which is building a section of the Paletwa-Mizoram Road in Chin State’s Paletwa Township. It later released the two women and three of the men.
The AA accused the rest of being former members of Myanmar military’s intelligence unit and of collecting intelligence on the AA under cover of working for the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transportation Project, which aims to link western Myanmar and eastern India via multiple routes including the road.
“They are all fine, in terms of their health and safety,” Khaing Thukha said.
Daw Nan Tun, the mother of detainee U Paw Gyi, told The Irrawaddy, “I’ve been waiting for him every day. I don’t know where to enquire about his whereabouts. I worry that he will get lost and get into trouble without money after they release him. I can go there and bring back him if they allow me to.”
Family members of Mandalay resident U Paw Gyi said he has never been in military service, and works as a driver for a living. He went to Chin State after one of his friends offered him work operating heavy vehicles at a construction site there.
“My brother is a civilian. He has a wife and daughter living here. And we don’t know if he is still alive. We want to talk to him by phone,” said Daw Theint Theint Htwe, the younger sister of U Paw Gyi.
“If possible, we want to have phone contact with him. We would be overjoyed if my husband is still alive,” said Daw Khin Khin Than, the wife of another detainee, U Saw Ko Ko Naing.
She also denied the AA’s allegations that her husband works for the Myanmar Army. He retired as a corporal from the Army in 2002 and has worked for Hsu Htoo San Construction Co. since 2012, she said.
“My husband is a Karen and I am Arakanese, and we have not betrayed our races as they alleged. We only want to make an honest living. We don’t even have our own house, and we have to live at my mother’s house. I am in real hardship now,” Daw Khin Khin Than said.
The last round of clashes between the Myanmar Army and the AA took place on June 7 in Paletwa Township, and military tensions remain high in the area.
Over 750 civilians from rural parts of Paletwa this week fled to urban areas of the township for fear of being trapped by the fighting. According to local humanitarian groups, more than 40,000 people have been displaced by clashes in Kyauktaw, Buthidaung, Minbya, Rathedaung, Mrauk-U and Ponnagyun townships in neighboring northern Rakhine State.
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