RANGOON — The communications officer of the Arakan Liberation Party, Khine Myo Htun, was detained on Monday in Sittwe, the Arakan State capital, where he is facing incitement charges for accusing the Burma Army of committing war crimes in the state.
According to local sources, he had received bail after initial charges were made, but had not shown for two consecutive court hearings, after which the judge ordered his arrest.
During a court hearing on Wednesday, more than 50 Sittwe residents stood for several hours outside, reportedly eager to enquire about Khine Myo Htun’s status.
The Arakan Liberation Party (ALP)—whose armed wing, the Arakan Liberation Army, is estimated to have minimal fighting capacity—was among eight non-state ethnic armed groups that signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement with the previous government in October last year.
On April 24, Khine Myo Htun released a statement on behalf of the ALP that made multiple allegations against the Burma Army of committing war crimes and breaching the Geneva Convention by forcing local civilians to porter for their battalions, using them as human shields, and torturing them for information during campaigns against the Arakan Army (another ethnic Arakanese armed group) in Kyauktaw Township of Arakan State.
Quickly after, the Arakan State Security and Border Affairs Minister Col Htein Lin—a military appointee—summoned Khine Myo Htun and demanded “concrete evidence” for the accusations, threatening him with arrest if no proof was given. In early May, Khine Myo Htun delivered 15 audio and visual files to Col Htein Lin as evidence.
However, the military responded by charging Khine Myo Htun under Article 505 of the Burmese penal code, which covers broad “incitement” provisions and carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.
A central committee member of the Arakan National Party, Khin Pyay Soe, confirmed that Khine Myo Htun had been sued by the military but had since been released on bail.
A junior officer of the ALP, who wished to remain anonymous, confirmed that Khine Myo Htun was arrested on Monday because of the April statement and was escorted by police to the Sittwe courthouse on Wednesday morning.
Nyo Aye, who sits on the board of directors for the Arakan Natural Resources and Environmental Network and has worked with Khine Myo Htun, told The Irrawaddy that they were preparing to meet with the security and border affairs minister to discuss Khine Myo Htun’s case, and were making urgent moves to hire a lawyer.
Nyo Aye explained that Khine Myo Htun had been absent from two previous court hearings, prompting his arrest on Monday, because he had been “away from Sittwe.”
The Irrawaddy phoned the ALP’s joint general-secretary Khine Aung Soe Than but he could not be reached for comment because he was en route to attend the Mai Ja Yang summit of ethnic armed groups, hosted by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Kachin State.