RANGOON — Authorities in Arakan State are continuing to arbitrarily arrest civilians on suspicion of links to the Arakan Army, according to several local sources, with the latest detainee a landowner from Taungup Township who was released on Wednesday evening.
Speaking to The Irrawaddy on Thursday, Aung Tin Moe said he was arrested on Monday in Taungup Township’s Ma-Ei town by military personnel who quizzed him over suspected ties to the Arakan Army which has recently been engaged in clashes with government troops.
“They asked me what I have been doing since university age to this year,” said Aung Tin Moe, who owns a teak plantation in Ma-Ei town. He said he was detained by army personnel and held in neighboring Ann Township until his release on Wednesday evening.
A friend of Aung Tin Moe, citizen journalist Tun Tun Naing, has also claimed he is wanted by authorities in Kyaukphyu Township.
“I don’t know exactly why they are trying to apprehend me. I have heard that they [the Burma Army] suspect me because I was a childhood friend of Col. Nyo Tun Aung,” he said, referring to the vice chief-of-staff of the Arakan Army.
Last month, the chair of a local civil society organization and two other men were detained in Leik Kha Maw village, Kyaukphyu Township, on the grounds of their alleged links to the ethnic armed group, according to eyewitnesses.
Relatives of the detained men, one of whom is Maung Aye, the chair of the Kyaukphyu Rural Development Association, said they were originally being held at Kyaukphyu Prison.
Tun Lwin, coordinator of the Kyaukphyu Social Network, a separate organization, said he went to a military office in Zaytiya village in Kyaukphyu Township, along with six monks, to enquire about the detainees.
“They told us all they did was arrest the suspects according to orders,” Tun Lwin said. The trio have since been moved to an undisclosed location, according to Tun Lwin, who criticized authorities for arresting civilians on spurious grounds.
Other arrests were also reported last month. Taungup Township administrator Lu Maw said local police arrested two alleged Arakan Army soldiers found in possession of 50 walkie-talkies near the town’s outskirts on Jan. 9.
On Jan. 21, two Arakanese men were also detained in the capital Sittwe by army personnel, according to local media. Another Sittwe resident was reportedly detained a few days later.
The Irrawaddy phoned Arakan State security and border affairs minister Htein Linn on Wednesday but was unable to make contact.
In March 2015, fighting broke out between the Arakan Army and the Burma Army near Kyauktaw Township in what was believed to be the first time in a decade that ethnic Arakanese armed rebels in the region had clashed with government troops.
The following month, at least 20 people were detained under Burma’s Unlawful Association Law for their alleged links to the armed faction.
The latest skirmishes broke out in Kyauktaw Township on Dec. 27, with at least 200 civilians forced to flee their homes.
The Arakan Army is not recognized by the government and has been excluded from the ongoing peace process between Naypyidaw and other ethnic armed organizations.