Five Civilians Charged Under Anti-Terrorism Act in Western Myanmar

By Min Aung Khine 14 August 2019

SITTWE—Police have opened cases against five civilians from a village in Rakhine State’s Buthidaung Township under Myanmar’s Counter-Terrorism Law, including a village administrator and a school teacher, the suspects’ families have told The Irrawaddy.

Kyauk Yan Village residents U Maung Phyu Daung, Ko Maung Tun Sein and Ko Kyaw Thu Soe; primary school teacher U Naing Aung Tun; and administrator U San Maung were taken into custody at the Buthidaung Township Court on Tuesday.

“I went to see my son as I heard that he was brought to the court. My son is innocent,” Daw Me Ma, the mother of Ko Kyaw Thu Soe, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

According to local residents, Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) troops arrived in Kyauk Yan village on Aug. 8 and interrogated villagers for three days before arresting the five on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army (AA), which the Tatmadaw considers a terrorist organization.

“That day, soldiers came and surrounded our village. They interrogated the whole village. They first arrested the school teacher,” villager Ko Maung Oo Than said. “We were kept in the monastery for around three days and were not allowed to go outside. On Aug. 11 they arrested the five, including the school teacher and the administrator, then left the village.”

Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesperson for the Tatmadaw’s Western Command, which oversees Rakhine State, told The Irrawaddy that the five were arrested because they have ties to the AA.

“I didn’t have a chance to talk to my son at the court. I saw his face was swollen. My son is a school teacher, and he has no ties with the AA. It is just an accusation,” said U Ba Than Maung, the father of U Naing Aung Tun.

U Naing Aung Tun is a Rathedaung Township native assigned to the primary school in Kyauk Yan Village some three years ago.

“We have reported his arrest to higher level authorities,” said U Than Pe, head of the Buthidaung Township Education Office.

The five will be held until Aug. 27, relatives of Ko Maung Tun Sein said.

“If the military has suspicions they can summon anyone, either village administrator or school teacher, for interrogation, but they should not have surrounded the village, gathered the villagers and seized their hand phones, which frightened villagers,” said Lower House lawmaker U Aung Thaung Shwe, of Buthidaung Township. “I think it is a violation of human rights.”

Many residents of Kyauk Yan fled the village after the interrogation session.

In a separate incident, another primary school teacher was arrested by the military while on his way to a Buthidaung Township school in the first week of August. He was also charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law.