Five Abducted as Feud Between Myanmar’s Ethnic Rakhine Groups Continues

By Lei Lei 14 August 2020

YANGON—Ethnic armed group the Arakan Army (AA) abducted five members of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP) in Rakhine State’s Ponnagyun Township earlier this week, according to the ALP.

The ALP and its armed wing, the Arakan Liberation Army (ALA), are an ethnic Rakhine revolutionary group formed in 1967 to fight for equality and are based along Myanmar’s border with Bangladesh and India. The ALP signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) in 2015 and is participating in Myanmar’s peace process.

The AA is an ethnic Rakhine rebel force involved in fierce fighting with the Myanmar military.

Among those abducted are ALP First Joint Secretary Khaing Aung Soe Than, liaison office staff member Khaing Htay and three medical workers from the Rakhine Community Health Workers Association (RCHWA).

According to the ALP, the three health workers were detained by the AA while returning from the funeral of their fellow health worker on Monday.

“Khaing Aung Soe Than and Khaing Htay were abducted at their house near Myaunggyi Village,” ALP Lieutenant Colonel Khaing Kyaw Hlaing told The Irrawaddy.

In July, the ALP accused the AA of killing three ALA members held in detention. In response to the accusation, AA spokesman Khaing Thukha denied responsibility but said the AA did detain two people for being drunk and disorderly.

“In the interview with RFA [Radio Free Asia], Khaing Thukha said they were detained not because they are ALP members, but for being drunk and disorderly,” said Lt-Col Khaing Kyaw Hlaing. “Khaing Thukha served as general secretary in the ALP and he knows well about Khaing Aung Soe Than. It is hard to believe what he said in his interview that the AA did not detain ALP members.”

Some volunteer organizations helping internally displaced people in Rakhine State suggested that the AA’s move aims to undermine public trust in the ALP.

According to the ALP, the AA has so far detained ALP members on four occasions, twice in 2017 and twice this year.

A total of 12 ALP members were detained in those incidents and two managed to escape. There are unconfirmed reports that the AA has killed some of the 10 other detainees.

Lt-Col Khaing Kyaw Hlaing also slammed the AA for abducting fellow ethnic Rakhine people. The ALP demanded the immediate release of all ALP members abducted by the AA.

Dozens of ALP members were reportedly killed in an assault by the AA on ALP headquarters on the Myanmar-Bangladesh border in 2017.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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