Abducted Villagers in Western Myanmar Blame Arakan Army

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 26 May 2020

Yangon — Four villagers in Chin State’s Paletwa Township who went missing in March and escaped said they were detained by the Arakan Army (AA), which is fighting government troops in western Myanmar.

Four men from Yak Dein village went missing on March 22 as they went into a forest to collect firewood. They were detained by the AA for interrogation but three were released by the rebels on Monday and the other managed to run away on the same day, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization based in Samee.

“They said they were detained by the AA. The Tatmadaw [Myanmar’s military] and police are interviewing them,” said Salai Lian, spokesman of the Chin Human Rights Organization.

The AA was recently labeled a terrorist organization by the government.

Paletwa’s Upper House lawmaker U Salai Myo Htike said the four men arrived in Samee on Monday.

Yak Dein is between Paletwa and Samee, which is around 32 km away. Paletwa borders Rakhine State and has seen fierce clashes between the military and the AA for more than a year.

Paletwa’s residents have reported that both Myanmar’s military and the AA have detained and interrogated them on suspicion of having ties with the other side.

The Irrawaddy has documented reports of nearly 70 civilian beatings in Paletwa during interrogation and forced labor by both sides during 2019. Around 12 men went missing in the township between June and November 2019 when fighting was its most intense, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization.

In February, five women from Baungwa and Auk Thae Mawa villages told visiting reporters from The Irrawaddy that their husbands had been abducted by the AA.

Salai Lian said that a lack of eyewitnesses and reliable information meant it was often difficult to establish which side was responsible for abductions.

In February, Captain Rubi of the AA in Paletwa told The Irrawaddy that the rebel group was not responsible for the detention or recruitment of civilians in Paletwa Township, except for the seizure of Upper House lawmaker U Whei Tin.

The National League for Democracy parliamentarian was released by the AA in January in Paletwa Township after being detained for 79 days.

The AA also claimed responsibility for the detention of the Than Taung village administrator and employees of Hsu Htoo San Co.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko