Detained Wife of Myanmar’s Rakhine Rebel Leader to Face Immigration Case in Thailand

By The Irrawaddy 7 December 2019

Thailand is likely to take legal action against Ma Hnin Zar Phyu, the wife of the leader of the Arakan Army, who was detained along with her children on Wednesday, for being in the country without proper documentation.

On Dec. 4, Ma Hnin Zar Phyu—who is the wife of AA chief Major General Tun Myat Naing and the daughter of Rakhine State parliament Speaker U San Kyaw Hla—went to the Thai Immigration Bureau’s Chiang Mai office to extend her visa, which had expired the previous day. However, immigration officials told her that her Myanmar passport had been revoked and arrested her.

She was transferred to Chiang Rai on Friday before being sent to an immigration detention center in Mae Sai, Chiang Rai province on Saturday. Mae Sai is across the border from Tachileik in Myanmar’s Shan State.

Because her visa was expired at the time of her arrest, under Thai law she will have to face legal action before being deported, according to a source close to the family

She and her two children are currently being held at the Mae Sai immigration detention center, the source said. Their deportation has been delayed, and “it is uncertain whether they will be deported,” the source said.

The three were initially supposed to be deported on Friday, and Myanmar police were waiting to receive them in Tachileik. A senior Myanmar police officer told The Irrawaddy on Friday that “they would be transferred back within days.”

UN agencies and human rights advocates have been pushing the Thai authorities not to deport Ma Hnin Zar Phyu and her children.

Maj-Gen Tun Myat Naing told The Irrawaddy’s Burmese edition that, as a father, he worries, “but thankfully friends from the international community and human rights advocates are helping my family’s case.”

He said the Arakanese revolutionary movement “will not stop due to the arrests of family members or friends.”

He warned Myanmar military leaders and those responsible for the matter “to be careful and not to cry out, when you know what the AA is.”

According to a source in Chiang Mai who cannot be named, the Myanmar government earlier gave the Thai government a list of 10 people, including the families of Maj-Gen Tun Myat Naing and AA Colonel Kyaw Han, whom it sought to have arrested due to their affiliation with the AA.

In July, Singapore police arrested Ko Aung Myat Kyaw, the brother of the AA chief and five others who are members of Arakanese Association-Singapore (AAS), at separate locations.

And on Oct. 19, police arrested U Kyaw Naing, the AA chief’s brother-in-law, at Yangon International Airport on his return from Chiang Mai. U Kyaw Naing’s wife Ma Yamin Myat (aka Moe Hnin Phyu), who is Maj-Gen Tun Myat Naing’s sister, was also arrested as she came to meet her husband at the airport.

The police opened a case against the pair at Yangon’s Mayangone Township Court under Section 52 (a) (b) and (c) of the Counterterrorism Law.

The AA is currently embroiled in a serious conflict with the Myanmar military in northern Rakhine State. The fighting has displaced some 80,000-90,000 civilians and left hundreds dead, injured or detained.

Tensions have been high in the area since Jan. 4, when the AA launched coordinated attacks on four Myanmar Police outposts in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township. The attacks constituted the ethnic armed organization (EAO)’s biggest assault since March 2015, when it first began to establish a foothold in the area, moving beyond its headquarters in Laiza, Kachin State.

Since early this year, the AA has also abducted a number of civilians, including a Chin State parliamentarian, accusing them of working for the military. Lawmaker U Whei Tin has been detained by the AA since early November. A month earlier in October, the AA abducted dozens of people including police and soldiers from the Shwe Nadi ferry near Rathedaung Township. The AA also detained another 31 people, including 19 Rakhine State firefighters, for two weeks in the same month.

In March, the group arrested 13 employees of the Hsu Htoon San construction company, accusing them of affiliation with the Myanmar military. The Myanmar company works with the Kaladan Project, which aims to link western Myanmar and eastern India via multiple routes. The AA subsequently released five of the 13, including two women, but accused the rest of working undercover for the Myanmar military and detained them for five months, until they were released on Aug. 18.

Bilateral ceasefire talks between the AA and the government have been on hold since mid-September, when an alliance of three EAOs including the AA attacked a military technological academy in Pyin Oo Lwin in Mandalay Region, and police checkpoints in Naung Cho, Shan State.

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