Four Arakanese Deportees from Singapore Arrive in Yangon

By Moe Myint 11 July 2019

YANGON—Four Arakanese deported by the Singaporean government for allegedly using the city-state as a platform to organize for and fund the ethnic armed rebel group the Arakan Army (AA) in Myanmar arrived back Yangon at 11:30 p.m. on Wednesday night.

Regarding the arrests, Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry released a statement Wednesday night in which it said a Singaporean investigation had revealed that several Myanmar nationals (Arakanese is one of eight major ethnic groups in Myanmar) were supporting the AA from Singapore.

“The immigration facilities of those found to be involved in activities of security concern will be cancelled, and they will be deported from Singapore,” the ministry said.

It said the conduct of the detained Arakanese in Singapore had been “inimical to Singapore security,” and that the city-state’s police forces “take a very serious view” of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes perpetrations to undertake armed violence, regardless of how they rationalize such violence ideologically.

“They should not import their domestic political issues from their countries into Singapore,” the ministry said. “Any person, local or foreign, who engages in such activity, which is inimical to Singapore’s national security, will be dealt with firmly,” a statement from Singapore police read.

Soon after the arrests of Arakanese Association-Singapore (AAS) members on Wednesday morning, close friends of theirs told The Irrawaddy that the police raid came at the request of Myanmar authorities, but statements out of Singapore did not mention this. They avoided using the names of the deportees or the precise number of people detained.

One statement said one of the individuals “has a direct relationship with a key AA leader.”

In fact, Ko Aung Myat Kyaw, the brother of an AA chief, has been in Singapore for years, as have five of his colleagues in the AAS: AAS Chairman Ko Hein Zaw, Vice Chair Daw Ye Myat Mon, Ko Ye Kyat Htet, Ko Tin Hlaing Oo and Ko Tun Aye—all of whom were arrested in separate raids in separate locations on Tuesday and Wednesday.

A handout from Singapore police said a person—referring to Ko Aung Myat Kyaw—had reportedly mobilized the Arakanese community in Singapore to support and contribute to a “National Fund” that went to the armed group, arguing that the community needed a credible fighting army to protect the Arakanese public. The statement further said Singapore police had also learned of recent socio-cultural events held in the Arakanese community used to propagate the AA’s cause and rally support for the “Rakhine Fatherland.”

In a recent celebration of the 10th anniversary of the establishment of the AA and its political wing, the United League for Arakan, the detained individuals had worn military uniforms and clothing bearing the official AA logo. They staged a performance depicting an AA armed offensive, with replica firearms, against the Myanmar military, according to the police statement. A video message of AA leader Major-General Tun Myat Naing that livestreamed at the event was also seen by Singapore police.

News of the men’s arrests circulated on Facebook. Reporters and relatives awaited their arrival at Yangon International Airport on Thursday night.

The appearance of two unknown faces alongside Ko Tin Hlaing Oo and May Myat Mon caused confusion.

Ko Hein Zaw’s sister told The Irrawaddy at the arrival gate, “I had no information about my brother. Someone told me that he was still in Singapore.”

An Arakanese woman living in Singapore told The Irrawaddy under condition of anonymity this morning that as many as eight Arakanese men may have been arrested by Singapore police but only six were reported in the media.  

She claims the AA chief’s brother, Ko Aung Myat Kyaw, and Ko Tun Aye were being held by Singaporean authorities while the situation of AAS Chairman Ko Hein Zaw still remains unclear.

With most of the Arakanese population in Singapore concerned about arrest and police surveillance, they have avoided inquiring about the fate of the others.

“We still don’t know whether Ko Aung Myat Kyaw and Ko Hein Zaw are being held in police custody or at an embassy in Singapore,” the anonymous woman said.

Unconfirmed information about further arrests of Arakanese people that had participated in the anniversary celebration in Singapore has circulated in the Singapore Araknaese community. A picture uploaded to Facebook showed several dozen Arakanese had joined the event.

An Arakanese migrant woman close to the AAS said “Most of the Arakanese here came for a job to support their family. They have a small income.”

You may also like these stories:

Police in Singapore Find Counterfeit Kyats in Raids on Moneychangers

Singapore Urged to Fix Rules on Hiring Domestic Workers to Stop Forced Labor

3 Arakanese Accused of Involvement in Army Officer Shooting Released

Four Arakanese Facing Charges for Murder of Army Intelligence