Arakan Army Free Myanmar Civilian After Four Months in Captivity

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 16 December 2020

Yangon — The Arakan Army (AA) released an ethnic Chin man on Monday after detaining him for more than four months in Paletwa in southern Chin State.

Salai Aung Soe had been missing since July 29 and the Rakhine ethnic armed group has repeatedly denied allegations of his arrest.

On Dec. 12, the armed group told his family in Paletwa to collect him.

“I could not relax until I arrived back in Paletwa. Anything could happen on the way home. But I have really arrived back in Paletwa now. It is not a dream,” said Salai Aung Soe.

He was released on Monday and arrived in Paletwa on Tuesday after walking through the forest.

“I was held in their cell for all four months. In the first eight days, I was shackled. They accused me of working for media agencies and having ties to Myanmar’s Tatmadaw [military]. I denied the allegations,” said Salai Aung Soe.

The AA seized him along with three other Chin men, Salai Benjamin, Salai Khin Maung Tun and Salai Aung Tun, on July 29 on their return from Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw to Paletwa.

AA troops arrived by motorboat near Nga Tha Yine village in Paletwa and the four were taken away blindfolded.

The three others were freed on Aug. 25. Though the three stated that Salai Aung Soe was still under detention, the AA denied it.

Salai Aung Soe said it is unacceptable to detain someone for more than four months without strong evidence. He asked the armed group not to kidnap other Chin civilians.

Mai Nan Wai, spokeswoman for the Khumi Affairs Coordination Council, which demanded Salai Aung Soe’s release, said she views the armed group’s continuous denials over his kidnapping to be disrespectful to the Chin community.

“As an ethnic Chin, I support the cause of establishing an Arakan state. This is their right. We accept it. But in so doing, they seize people of other ethnic groups who co-exist with them and that they don’t even admit is disrespectful to us. If they keep on, it will create conflict between the two ethnic groups,” she said.

Since clashes erupted between the military and AA in November 2018 until October this year, 20 Chin men have gone missing. Some of them were detained by the AA at their homes, according to their relatives. The AA dismissed the allegations.

Myanmar’s government declared the AA a terrorist organization on March 23.

Tensions have eased since the Nov. 8 general election.

Japan’s special peace envoy, Yohei Sasakawa, mediated in two rounds of talks between the military and AA, first online and then in person, to sign a ceasefire agreement.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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