Detainee Deaths Mount in N. Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 2 July 2019

SITTWE—Another resident of Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township has died days after being arrested by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) near the village of Pauk Taw Pyin.

Ko Zaw Win Hlaing, 28, was one of eight individuals detained by the military on June 21 following clashes between the military and the Arakan Army (AA) on a mountain in Mrauk-U east of the village. He died at a hospital on Monday.

Ko Zaw Win Hlaing was a resident of Shwe Tun Phyu Village, in Mrauk-U. He and the seven others were arrested as they were returning home from a bricklaying job at Waithali Pagoda, near Pauk Taw Pyin Village, according to the victim’s brother, U Oo Hlaing Win.

“My brother married a resident of Pauk Taw Pyin and he was staying and working there. He was arrested as he returned from his work,” U Oo Hlaing Win told The Irrawaddy. “Before his death, he said that [soldiers] asked him to take off his longyi, then filled it with stones and beat him in the back with it.”

Ko Zaw Win Hlaing is the second of the group to have died. On June 24, a 23-year-old male died while being taken to the hospital by the military.

Ko Zaw Win Hlaing had been detained for four days before being handed over to police in Kyauktaw Township on the evening of June 24. Due to health conditions, police brought him to Kyauktaw Township Hospital. As his condition worsened, he was transferred on June 30 to Sittwe Township Hospital.

Ko Zaw Win Hlaing had said he was tortured and starved while in detention. At the hospital he was constantly coughing up blood, his mother, Daw Thein Nu Sein, said.

“My son said the military didn’t feed him, but hit his back with stones packed in a longyi. I want justice,” she said.

The Irrawaddy was unable to reach Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team, spokesperson Colonel Win Zin Oo of the Myanmar army’s Western Command, or the head of the Kyauktaw Township police station for comments.

Ko Zaw Win Hlaing’s family members have brought his body back to Mrauk-U.

When asked about the detentions after the first death, Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy the men were arrested following clashes in the area on suspicion of being AA fighters.

To date, 14 civilians have died in or shortly after military detention during recent fighting in Rakhine State,

In another case, soldiers stopped a vehicle that was transporting a patient from the village of Pan Myaung in Minbya Township on March 12 and detained 10 people. The patient was unable to reach the hospital in time and died while detained, family members said.

On April 10, the Tatmadaw arrested 27 residents of Lekka village in Minbya Township, accusing them of being AA fighters. During that detention, three villagers died. The Tatmadaw said one of the deaths was a suicide, one related to a heart condition and another was drug-related.

In a separate case, a villager from Kyauktaw Township also died in custody.

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