Burma Army troops detained a central committee member of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front (ABSDF)—a signatory group of the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA)—in Momauk Township, Kachin State last Wednesday, while he returned home to Laiza from Rangoon.
U Min Htay, from the ABSDF’s northern region, was detained at the Sein Lone military checkpoint on the Bhamo–Lwegel road, and was transferred to the Momauk police station two days later, on Dec. 30. Civilian movement on the route has been restricted for a few months as military tensions heightened between Burma Army troops and the Kachin Independence Army.
“We are still negotiating with related authorities for his release through the JMC [Joint-ceasefire Monitoring Committee],” said U Myo Win, the vice chair of the ABSDF, who did not reveal the reasons behind U Min Htay’s arrest.
He told The Irrawaddy that the Burma Army’s northern command had informed the Joint-ceasefire Monitoring Committee about the arrest, and therefore, they were communicating through the JMC.
Min Zaw Oo, the director of the JMC technical secretariat, told The Irrawaddy that the negotiation process is under the way and they cannot reveal details of the case until it is resolved.
Sources on the ground say U Min Htay is likely to have charges filed against him under Article 17 (1) regarding affiliating with an unlawful organization—namely the Kachin Independence Army.
U Min Htay and his ABSDF-northern region troops are based near the KIA’s stronghold in Laiza. Emerging after the 1988 uprising and formerly outlawed, the ABSDF was removed from the unlawful association list after it signed the NCA in Oct. 2015.
U Min Htay also appeared as a Burmese military officer in the American movie Rambo 4, released in 2008 and starring Sylvester Stallone.
Ma Hnoung, U Min Htay’s wife, said she hopes the negotiations for her husband’s release are successful.
“I am worried that it will go wrong but I hope for the best. We need the negotiation process to be at its best because otherwise, it could lower trust during the current peace process,” she said, referring to the ABSDF as one of the NCA signatories.
Ma Hnoung, a secretary of the ABSDF northern region working committee, and her husband were on the Thailand-Burma border last week where they joined an organizational briefing on preparations in support of national level dialogue.