SITTWE – The chairman of Arakan Rakkhita Group (ARG), U Ba Aye, who had been charged with drug trafficking, was released on Wednesday after insufficient evidence was found to proceed with the prosecution.
Police arrested and filed a complaint against him under the Narcotic Drugs and Psychotropic Substance Law in June. After he spent five months behind bars, Maungdaw District Court on Wednesday ordered his release, saying insufficient evidence was found to support the charges.
“I am very disappointed that a person like me, who is engaging in social welfare work, was recklessly put into prison,” U Ba Aye told The Irrawaddy.
Police said they searched an ARG farm on June 9 and found 399,550 “yaba” or methamphetamine pills with a street value of nearly 800 million kyats (US$520,000) hidden in paint containers.
The following day, police arrested U Ba Aye at the ARG office in Mrauk-U in Rakhine State and charged him with drug dealing.
Police also arrested five farmers, including the manager and supervisor, and seized 100 cows, 30 goats and 20 pigs, and sealed off the farm, said U Ba Aye.
“I was not at the scene when the WY tablets were seized. And I heard that they were seized from a hut opposite the farm,” said U Ba Aye.
He said ARG tried to persuade the community not to leave Maungdaw, which has been plagued by conflict in recent years.
Despite his release, the five farmers still face drugs charges.
As police have sealed the farm for months, paddy seeds and harvesters and other farm equipment will be ruined, ARG said.
ARG was established in 2015 and operates farms in Sittwe, Mrauk-U and Maungdaw townships.
It operates the farms and aims to provide community support to residents through farming.