RANGOON — With ongoing fighting between insurgents and government troops in Burma’s west, the Arakan National Party (ANP) has asked local Burma Army forces to respect legal restrictions on interrogations after a number of Arakan villagers were detained in the conflict.
Arakan State lawmaker and ANP member Saw Nyein, spoke to Col. Wint Thu, the tactical commander of the Burma Army’s local command and control center in Kyauktaw, to press the demand on Tuesday.
“They said the arrested suspicious persons for military reasons,” Saw Nyein told The Irrawaddy. “We said we have no concerns with their investigation if it is in line with law and we’re not intervening militarily, but we want to see their earliest possible release if they have done nothing wrong,”
Locals and civil society organizations in Arakan State said that more than 60 people have been arrested on suspicion of associating with the Arakan Army, though the ANP said it could only confirm the arrest of 11.
In a Wednesday statement from the ANP’s central executive committee, the party said that locals were concerned about the potential torture of innocent civilians detained by the military.
“Col. Wint Thu agreed to act in line with law, and said that they are just asking questions [of the locals] and it is not arrest,” said Saw Nyein.
Col. Wint Thu did not answer The Irrawaddy’s calls.
Eleven members of the Arakan Army were arrested earlier this month, and in pursuit of leads from interrogation of the detainees, the Burma Army is currently looking for a list of suspects in the areas where recent clashes have occurred, while the Arakan State police force has launched search patrols in Kyauktaw, Sittwe, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Ramee.
The government army has also imposed travel restrictions in villages around the areas where it clashed with Arakan Army troops, according to Nyo Aye, chairwoman of the Arakan Women’s Network.
The Arakan Army headquarters released a statement on Tuesday which accused the military of arresting and torturing innocent civilians, including village heads and community elders, and setting villages on fire in battle zones.
The statement also said that the fact that the government army committing such acts against innocent Arakan locals instead of finding a solution through political means provokes the anger of lower rank AA fighters and encourages undesirable consequences.
Clashes between the military and Arakan Army broke out on Mar. 29 in Kyauktaw, and in April alone the two sides have engaged at least 10 times, according to the Arakan Army. The fighting has forced an estimated 400 people in the area from their homes.