Myanmar Military Releases 33 Rakhine Civilians Arrested After Deadly Shelling

By Nyein Nyein 21 April 2020

The Myanmar military has released 33 out of 39 men from a village in Rakhine State who were arrested Sunday afternoon on suspicion of affiliation with the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic armed group which the government designated as a terrorist group last month.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that they released 33 of the men from Kyauk Seik Village in Ponnagyun Township on Monday afternoon and that the “remaining six who are still suspected of affiliation with the AA are under ongoing investigation.”

He told The Irrawaddy that the military arrested a total of 39 men but villagers said only 38 were arrested.

Kyauk Seik villagers told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the military returned the 33 villagers to the Ponnagyun police station on Monday after 6 p.m. The men had to pledge and sign a document saying that they are not affiliated with the AA and that they would also not communicate with the AA in the future.

U Ba Shwe, a Kyauk Seik villager, said his two sons were among those released and that they arrived back home together on Monday evening.

U Saw Thein Maung, another local resident, said that five men, including his two nephews, are still in military custody. He said that if the military plans to take action against the men in accordance with the law, then the military should transfer them into police custody instead of holding them.

“On Sunday, after being tied up, the men were taken to the military’s Light Infantry Battalion 550 but left without food or water until they were released on Monday,” U Saw Thein Maung told The Irrawaddy, citing his conversations with the released men.

Some were beaten and sustained minor injuries—one man has inflammation on his face and another man was hurt in the chest after being hit with the butt of a gun, he added.

A week before the men were arrested, eight local residents were killed and over a dozen were injured by military artillery fire on April 13, though the military denied the allegations.

Kyauk Seik Village, a 40-minute drive from the state capital of Sittwe, is home to more than 400 households but currently the villagers have fled to Ponnagyun Town and Mrauk-U as they are afraid of artillery fire and military suspicion, said U Saw Thein Maung.

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