Burma

Detained NLD Lawmaker From Myanmar’s Chin State Won’t Be Released Soon: Arakan Army

By Zin Lin Htet 10 January 2020

Yangon – The Arakan Army (AA) says it will continue to detain U Whei Tin, parliamentarian for Chin State’s Paletwa constituency, saying the group has security concerns if he is released.

The group would not offer proof he was still alive, said AA spokesman U Khaing Thukha, in response to rumors of his death.

“We can assure you that he is still alive and in good health. But we can’t show him due to security concerns,” U Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy.

Myanmar’s military or Tatmadaw had also refused family members’ visits to Rakhine hostages, said U Khaing Thukha. Releasing information about U Whei Tin risked military attacks, he said.

“We have to give priority to our security. What we can promise is that U Whei Tin is in good health. There is no need to worry,” said U Khaing Thukha.

However, he said the AA had evidence that U Whei Tin collected military intelligence on the AA for Myanmar’s military.

“His release will incur risks for the security of our troops and Rakhine people in Paletwa. That’s why we continue to detain him,” U Khaing Thukha said.

The AA had not determined how long to hold U Whei Tin in custody, he added.

Former Chin State electricity and industry minister Salai Issac Khin recently told The Irrawaddy that the AA lied about U Whei Tin, and the group must take full responsibility for the safety of its detainees.

Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said no updates had been received about U Whei Tin.

“What they said is just an excuse. That they said the Tatmadaw would attack is just an excuse,” he said.

The spokesman also denied the AA’s allegation that the ethnic Chin lawmaker spied for the military. “He has no ties with us. As a lawmaker, he can’t do that. The Tatmadaw didn’t work with him,” said Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun.

Myanmar’s military was making investigations about rescuing detainees from the AA, including security personnel, civil servants and U Whei Tin, he said.

Chin State lawmaker U Aung Than of Mindat Township called on the AA to prove that U Whei Tin was alive and demanded his release.

“We are not happy that he is still held in custody. We hoped that he would be released not so long after he was arrested,” said U Aung Than.

Information officer Monywa Aung Shin of the National League for Democracy (NLD) said the AA’s reasons were unconvincing.

“Clashes will happen whether U Whei Tin is released or not. Their reasons are not rational. In fighting, gathering intelligence is normal. It doesn’t make sense that his release would leak military intelligence,” he said.

Monywa Aung Shin warned that taking civilian hostages damaged the image of the AA as an ethnic armed group.

The AA detained 10 civilians, including four Indian citizens working on the Kaladan transport project and U Whei Tin, who was traveling to Naypyitaw to attend Parliament, in Kyauktaw Township in Rakhine State on Nov. 3.

The AA released them all except U Whei Tin. In late November, a parliamentary motion was approved demanding action to secure his release.

Earlier U Khaing Thukha said the AA could not guarantee the safety of detainees in northern Rakhine State. In December, it blamed a Tatmadaw artillery attack for the death of the Buthidaung Township NLD chief, who died while being detained by the AA.

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