Local Activist Among Trio Detained in Arakan State

By Moe Myint 22 January 2016

RANGOON — The chair of a local civil society organization and two others were detained in Arakan State’s Kyaukphyu Township on Thursday, according to eyewitnesses, who suggested the trio were accused of having links to the Arakan Army (AA).

Maung Aye, the chair of the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association, and two other unnamed men were detained in Leik Kha Maw village at around midday on Thursday by a group of eight men in plainclothes, presumed to be police or military officers, according to local monk and the brother of Maung Aye, Oo Bawdi.

“Our villagers are very scared now,” said the monk, adding that the plainclothes men were armed.

The village is situated near the Shwe gas project, around 10 km from the town of Kyaukphyu in the coastal western state.

Local villager Maung Yin Daung, who witnessed the arrests, said that when he went to Kyaukphyu police station to make enquiries, police there denied any knowledge of the detainees.

“We heard that they were arrested because of an AA connection,” he said.

Recent conflict between government troops and the Arakan Army broke out in Kyauktaw Township on Dec. 27. Hundreds of local Arakanese people have been forced to flee their homes, with the Burma Army pledging to “remove” the ethnic armed group from Arakan State.

Burma Army troops clashed several times with Arakan Army forces in a number of areas in the western state beginning in late March 2015. Following the fighting, at least 20 people were detained under Burma’s Unlawful Association Law for their alleged links to the armed faction.

According to villagers, Maung Aye was a respected member of the local community who helped address cases of land confiscation and led protests against unfair compensation.

The Irrawaddy contacted the head of Kyaukphyu Township police office, Win Kyi, on Thursday evening, who said that the local police force was not involved and that he had no information on the detainees.

Oo Bawdi claimed Maung Aye was being held by military members from infantry battalion No. 34, an assertion The Irrawaddy could not immediately verify.