Five Suspects Flee Detainment by Border Police, Seize Guns

By Moe Myint 13 March 2017

RANGOON – A member of the border guard police confirmed to The Irrawaddy that five men attacked the Aung Zu border checkpoint in Arakan State’s Maungdaw Township on Saturday afternoon, taking three firearms.

Deputy Police Major Thet Ko Ko said that the officers manning the Aung Zu checkpoint detained five men on motorbikes for questioning, after discovering and confiscating “suspicious” materials in their bags, including a remote control and circuit boards. The men reportedly fought back, grabbing firearms and fleeing the scene on their motorbikes.

“These materials are not something ordinarily carried by people,” Thet Ko Ko said, referring to the circuit boards and remote.

The State Counselor’s Office Information Committee issued a statement on Sunday morning providing details about the confiscated materials and suspects. According to the statement, two of the men are believed to be ethnic Daingnet, living on the Bangladeshi border, and three are Arakanese, temporarily living in the Myoma monastery in Maungdaw town.

President’s Office spokesperson and information committee member U Zaw Htay said that since ethnic Daingnet live in both Bangladesh and in the Maungdaw area, it was difficult to determine the origin of the suspects. He told The Irrawaddy there are concerns of links to one of several armed organizations operating in the area.

The information committee’s statement said that the suspects left their motorbikes in Kha Maung Seik village and then entered Bangladesh. The security forces recovered two firearms from nearby Wai Lar Taung village.

“To oversee this problem by crossing the border is inappropriate. We are cooperating with the Bangladeshi authorities to address these issues,” U Zaw Htay said.

After criticism from locals regarding the policemen’s failure to catch the suspects, Deputy Police Major Thet Ko Ko admitted that an insufficient police presence could have contributed to the suspects’ attack at the checkpoint.

“Of course, that could not have happened if there was an official there,” he said, adding that the police would “form a team to investigate the responsible officials and punish them in line with police principles if they are found out guilty.”

The Daingnet National Development Party chairman U Aung Kyaw Zaw said he was disappointed that the government had described the suspects as ethnic Daingets.

“Any race can commit a crime, but labeling those suspects as ethnic Daingnet is really unacceptable. It abases our dignity,” said he said, adding that he had been told that the men were Arakanese, with links to the Arakan Army (AA); police official Thet Ko Ko speculated that this was unlikely.

The Irrawaddy spoke to an AA representative who denied that any of the suspects were affiliated with the ethnic armed group.

According to U Aung Kyaw Zaw, about 4,000 ethnic Daingnets live in the area, but that the nearest Daingnet village is not in the vicinity of the Aung Zu checkpoint.