Ethnic armed group the Arakan Army (AA) released 17 police and immigration officers on Wednesday in a further sign of warming relations between the AA and the military regime. The Rakhine State-based AA had been detaining the officers since October 2019.
The armed group released the officers at the border of Rathedaung and Buthidaung townships, according to a Rathedaung-based civil society organization member who asked for anonymity.
“We heard that 17 police and immigration officers detained from the Shwe Nadi vessel were freed somewhere near Yay Soe Chaung village on Wednesday. But I don’t know the details,” he said.
The AA seized the Shwe Nadi ferry between Sittwe and Buthidaung on the morning of Oct. 26 2019 near Rathedaung Township and abducted a total of 58 security personnel and civilians. Myanmar’s military said it was able to rescue over 10 of the security personnel.
In a statement, the AA said that scores of abductees and some AA soldiers providing security for them were killed in air attacks as Myanmar’s military attempted to rescue the detainees using helicopters.
The armed group handed 25 civilians over to village authorities in Ngwe Taung village of Buthidaung Township on Nov. 5 2019.
It is unclear how many of the people released on Wednesday are police and how many are immigration officers. On June 11, the AA also reportedly freed some other people it had abducted from the Shwe Nadi ferry. It is unclear how many were released.
Rakhine State Administrative Council spokesman U Hla Thein said he did not know about the case.
Neither the AA nor Myanmar’s military has issued statements about the release. The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the AA or military.
Myanmar authorities declared the AA a terrorist group in March 2020 after fighting broke out in Rakhine State, western Myanmar between the military and the group in late 2018.
However, the two sides have observed an unofficial ceasefire since last year’s November election, leading to peace talks between the junta and the AA.
During the talks the AA demanded that all cases opened against people arrested for alleged ties to the armed group be dropped and all detainees released.
The State Administration Council, as Myanmar’s junta describes itself, removed the AA from the list of terrorist groups on March 11 this year. That was followed by the regime dropping charges against some individuals arrested over their alleged ties to the AA, including relatives of the AA chief Major General Tun Myat Naing.
You may also like these stories: