Civilian Who Died in Custody in Myanmar’s Rakhine State Killed Himself, Military Says
By Min Aung Khine 16 July 2020
SITTWE, Rakhine State—One of six residents of Alel Chaung Village in Rakhine State’s Yanbye Township detained by Myanmar army troops on Saturday killed himself while being held for interrogation, according to the military.
Alel Chaung Village administrator U Myint Lwin told The Irrawaddy that Yanbye (formerly Ramree) Township Police Station told him to pick up the body of U Soe Myint Tun on Tuesday.
“Yanbye Township Police Station phoned me and told me that he killed himself by hanging. So, together with his family members, we brought the body from Ma-Ei Hospital,” he said.
Many Rakhine people have expressed doubts about the claim that the 37-year-old man took his own life. His relatives asked in vain for a postmortem examination report from the hospital. His funeral was held on Wednesday.
According to local residents, Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) troops, including some from Kyaukphyu-based Light Infantry Battalion No. 34, arrived in Alel Chaung Village on Saturday and detained six men, arresting them at their homes or at the farms where they worked, U Myint Lwin said.
“[The troops] didn’t tell me why they arrested them that day. They only said they had things to ask them, and would release them after interrogation, and that we would be informed,” he said.
The soldiers reportedly arrested U Soe Myint Tun while he was working on his farm. Still in detention are U Maung Tun Win, 44; U Zaw Lwin, 35; U Maung Myint Tun, 37; Ko Myet Wun, 25; and Maung Nyein Chan, 20.
All the detainees are farmers, and they are not involved in unlawful activities, local villagers said. Family members of the five other detainees have not been allowed to visit them.
The head of the Yanbye Township Police Force, Police Major Zaw Win, said he did not know about the case, other than being asked by Taungup Police Station to inform U Soe Myint Tun’s relatives of his death.
“We were not involved in the arrests. And we were not told about it, and we therefore do not know about the case. We just informed [the relatives] because Taungup Police Station asked me to do so,” Police Maj. Zaw Win told The Irrawaddy.
In a statement on Wednesday, the Myanmar military-run Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the military kept each of the six detainees in isolation at Ma-Ei Police Station. It said U Soe Myint Tun was found dead at around 6.30 p.m. on Monday, having untied his restraining rope and used it to hang himself.
The military said that according to security personnel, two suspicious men had arrived in Alel Chaung Village on a motorbike via the Minchaung Bridge at around 8 p.m. on June 23. It was confirmed that the two men are members of the Arakan Army (AA), according to the statement. Based on the accounts of the two, the Myanmar military arrested the six from Alel Chaung Village for interrogation, it added.
During the Tatmadaw’s conflict with the AA in Rakhine State, 18 civilians have died during interrogation by the Myanmar military in Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya and Rathedaung townships.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko
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