Families Question Myanmar Military’s Detention of Rakhine Civilians, Monk

By Min Aung Khine 19 November 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—Family members of three civilians including one monk who were detained by the military some two months ago in Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township have expressed concerns for the safety of the detainees, as their whereabouts are still unknown.

Among the three are Oh Tein Village administrator U Wai Soe Tun, local resident U Maung Tha Sein and monk U Kavidaja of the village monastery.

They were arrested by military troops stationed at Lin Mue Hill on Sept. 20 while they were driving to invite a monastery abbot in Kyauk Kyat to their village’s donation ceremony, according to family members.

“After we heard that they were arrested by soldiers at Lin Mue Hill, laypeople and villagers went there and [the military] said that they arrested them on suspicions related to their vehicle. We have heard nothing about them since that day. We don’t know if they are still alive,” said Daw Aye Thaung Sein, sister of U Wai Soe Tun.

According to Oh Htein residents who went to Lin Mue Hill following the arrest, they met Captain Ne Lin of Brigade 22 and the captain said the three were detained because of the vehicle they were driving. It is not clear if the vehicle had been used for illegal purposes.

Military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun confirmed the detention and said they are being interrogated.

“I don’t know the latest situation. But I think they are still in detention. We have the authority, if necessary for security, to detain and interrogate in line with the Defense of the Union of Myanmar (Special Arrangements for Military Operations) Act [of 1956], but we have no authority to punish. We will transfer the suspects to civilian courts in line with the law,” said Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun.

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy at a press conference in September that one of the three detainees is a member of the Arakan Army (AA) ethnic armed group.

U Gaung Sayadaw, who is a prominent monk from Mrauk-U, and community elders also paid a visit to Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu on Sept. 25 and presented a petition for the release of the detained monk signed by monks from the township.

U Gaung Sayadaw also met with new Rakhine State Security and Border Affairs Minister Colonel Min Than and requested that family members be allowed to meet the detainees.

“The security and border affairs minister guaranteed that the three are in good health. He said the interrogation is not yet over and told me to wait longer, but it has been almost two months. If they broke the law, punish them. But their family members should at least be allowed to visit them,” Sayadaw Myo U Gaung told The Irrawaddy.

Military troops are still stationed on hills around Lin Mue. The AA reportedly attacked the troops stationed there on Aug. 28.

Since January, 15 civilians have died during military detention and interrogation amid ongoing clashes in Rakhine State.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko