The Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, on Friday said they have released 126 innocent civilians out of 275 villagers from Rathedaung Township in northern Rakhine State whom they have held in detention for three days on suspicion of having ties with the Arakan Army (AA). The military also reiterated that it would take action against those who they claim are either AA members or have affiliations with the group.
Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, spokesperson of the Military’s True News Information Team which held a press conference in Naypyitaw on Friday said, “regarding the [Rathedaung Township’s] Kyauktan Village case, we were investigating 275 people, but we found that 126 people have no ties to the AA and thus they were freed this morning.”
Six of the detainees were shot dead during detention and eight others were injured in a case in which the military claims they opened fire on the captive villagers who tried to snatch guns from the soldiers, an account which differs to that shared by those at the scene.
All eight wounded detainees are undergoing treatment at the Sittwe General Hospital in the Rakhine State capital. The military said four others are missing.
The brigadier general reiterated that when the military overtook some AA camps on April 28 and 29 near Buthidaung Township, they were informed that some escaped AA members were taking shelter in Kyauktan Village, thus the police and the military forces raided the village and interrogated the villagers on April 30.
“There were cases of deaths on early Thursday morning and our troops on the ground and from the Western Command have returned the bodies to the families and helped with the burials and funeral services on Friday,” he said regarding the bodies of the six who were killed on Thursday.
The remaining detainees are, the spokesman claimed, AA members and those affiliated with the armed group according to their initial investigations.
“We will open cases against them at the police station and legal action will follow. If we find out that more people are innocent, we will release them in accordance with the procedures,” he said.
In a separate case in Mrauk U, three detainees died during the military interrogation last week. They were among 27 people of Mrauk U’s Let Kar Village who were accused of being AA members or affiliates are held captive by the military since April 10.
The brigadier general said 18 of the detainees from Let Kar Village are AA members who participated in the attack on police outposts in Mrauk U on the previous day. He added that five of them are strong supporters of the AA and four of them were suspected to be AA members.
He said the detainees have been transferred to the police station in Sittwe and that cases would be opened against them and legal action taken.
Intensified fighting between the military and the AA in the region had displaced more than 32,000 local residents as of April. Twelve civilians were killed during the fighting from January to March according to government figures and in April alone, nine civilians were killed by the military during interrogations.