Myanmar Court: Civilians Innocent in Rakhine Bombing Case

By Min Aung Khine 12 September 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—A court in Rathedaung Township, Rakhine State released two local residents on Wednesday after ruling that they were wrongfully accused of carrying out an explosion in the area in February.

Ko Than Pe and Ko Wai Soe Tun, both residents of Min Puu Village in Rathedaung Township, were imprisoned for eight months after local Police Sub-Lieutenant Aung Kyaw Soe Moe filed a lawsuit accusing them of carrying out an explosion that caused the death of Ma Yi Yi Soe, an 18-year-old village resident. The two were charged under Article 3 of the colonial-era Explosive Substance Act 1908.

Ma Yi Yi Soe died during an exchange of fire between the Myanmar army and the Arakan Army (AA) near the village in February.

“The way the court heard the case, there was no evidence. The court released them without any charges,” Daw Aye Nu Sein, lawyer for the defendants, told The Irrawaddy.

After the clash in February, Myanmar military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun confirmed to The Irrawaddy that government troops were attacked by AA forces using remote-detonated explosive devices near Min Puu Village and that the two sides exchanged fire when AA fighters fled into the village.

The military subsequently detained Ko Than Pe and Ko Wai Soe Tun.

“I am happy he is released,” Daw Than Khin, wife of Ko Than Pe, told The Irrawaddy. “But we have suffered both physically and mentally: he was imprisoned for eight months and it also cost us a lot to come to the court for trials.”

The day after the clash in February, The Irrawaddy went to Min Puu and saw the body of Ma Yi Yi Soe as well as bullet casings and two unexploded artillery shells to the west and north of the village.

In addition to Ma Yi Yi Soe, another woman and a 4-year-old child were also injured and treated at Sittwe Public Hospital.

The parents of the victims have called for justice, claiming that they saw Myanmar military soldiers shoot into the village.

After the clash, Myanmar military soldiers took some local residents to a nearby lake for interrogation. Residents reported seeing soldiers beating civilians and also throwing the cell phones of some civilians into the lake.

This story was translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.