Detained relatives of the Arakan Army (AA) chief have been released from prison after all charges against them were dropped, as the military regime seeks to bolster ties with the ethnic armed group based in western Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
The younger brother and sister of AA chief Major-General Tun Myat Naing, as well as the AA leader’s brother-in-law, were part of a group of ten people released on Wednesday. Their release followed a May 27 request from the Myanmar Police Force’s Special Branch asking the Central Committee for Counterterrorism to allow it to drop the lawsuits against them.
Defence lawyer U Aung Kyaw Sein told The Irrawaddy that the military intends to seek reconciliation with the AA by dropping the charges. The ten were arrested on terrorism charges in 2019 at a time of heightened tension between the Myanmar military and the AA.
The AA chief’s brother Ko Aung Myat Kyaw was arrested with seven other people by Singapore police on July 10, 2019 at the request of Myanmar authorities over allegations that they were financially backing the AA.
Most of the eight detainees were members of the Arakanese Association-Singapore (AAS), a social welfare organization that contributes relief aid from Singapore to ethnic Rakhine people displaced by fighting in Rakhine State.
They were subsequently deported to Myanmar, where authorities arrested them on arrival at Yangon International Airport and charged them under the Counter-Terrorism Law. They had since been held in Insein Prison.
“They were released this afternoon,” Ma Hnin Hnin Shwe, the sister of one of the detainees Ma May Myat Mon, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.
The AA chief’s sister Ma Moe Hnin Phyu and her husband Ko Kyaw Naing were arrested in October, 2019 at Yangon International Airport as Ko Kyaw Naing returned from Chiang Mai in Thailand.
Police said the charges were linked to explosive materials seized in Mandalay a month earlier. Ko Kyaw Naing was accused of funding a suspect linked to the seized explosive materials.
After fighting broke out between the military and AA in late 2018 in Rakhine State, the Myanmar authorities declared the AA a terrorist group in March 2020.
However, the two sides have observed an unofficial ceasefire since November last year after Nippon Foundation chairman Yōhei Sasakawa brokered talks between the AA and the military.
During the talks the AA demanded that all the cases opened for alleged ties with the armed group be dropped and all detainees be released.
The State Administration Council, as Myanmar’s junta describes itself, removed the AA from the list of terrorist groups on March 11 this year. That was followed by the regime dropping charges against some individuals arrested over their alleged ties with the AA.
Authorities had charged over 270 people in some 90 cases during two years of fighting between the AA and the military.
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