NAYPYITAW—The Union Parliament on Wednesday agreed to discuss an urgent proposal to condemn the Arakan Army over its arrest of an ethnic Chin lawmaker whom the ethnic rebel group has held since early this month, and to demand his immediate and unconditional release.
Upper House lawmaker U Whei Tin of the National League for Democracy (NLD) was abducted along with nine others including five Indians working on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transportation Project, two translators and two boat drivers while they were traveling from Paletwa to Kyauktaw in Rakhine State by boat on Nov. 3.
One of the Indians died while in the ethnic armed group’s custody. The AA later released eight people — the four surviving Indians, two translators and two boat drivers – along with the deceased Indian man’s body, but has kept the lawmaker in custody.
As he put forward the urgent proposal to the Union Parliament, which resumed on Wednesday, NLD lawmaker Dr. Hla Moe called the lawmaker’s abduction an act of blatant, violent opposition to the national peace and reconciliation process being carried out by the government, and to the wishes of the people and their political representatives.
“I would like to urge the Union Parliament to strongly condemn the abduction of civil servants and civilians including U Whei Tin, and call for him to be released safe and sound, immediately and unconditionally,” said Dr. Hla Moe.
The Parliament unanimously agreed to discuss the proposal on Monday.
On Nov. 9, the ruling NLD released a statement slamming the AA for its detention of the lawmaker and calling for his immediate release.
On Nov. 11, civil society organizations, local media agencies and religious organizations based in Paletwa, Kanpetlet, Matupi, Mindat and Haka, as well as Chin youth organizations, student unions and women’s organizations based in Yangon and Kalay Township of Sagaing—totaling 43 Chin organizations in all—released a joint statement calling for the release of the ethnic Chin lawmaker.
Salai Lian, a spokesperson for the 43 organizations, said, “Such an abduction and detention of an innocent civilian by an armed group amounts to a war crime, according to international norms. Such an act could tarnish the image of the AA on the international stage, so I would like to urge the AA not to do [such things] to civilians and release U Whei Tin immediately.”
The statement calls on the AA to publicly show evidence that U Whei Tin is safe and being treated with dignity, in line with international human rights standards. It says the AA’s continued violations of human rights will only worsen tensions between the Chin people and the armed group.
The Irrawaddy was not able to contact AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha for comment about the continued detention of the lawmaker.
However, in an interview with The Irrawaddy on Nov. 4, the day after the abduction, Khaing Thukha said, “We still hold U Whei Tin in custody because we still have to interrogate him for security reasons. But, torturing during interrogation is strictly prohibited in our organization. We are holding him properly, in line with human dignity.”
The Chin State government claims the AA has abducted 83 Chin civilians. The Chin Human Rights Organization has confirmed that 13 locals including lawmaker U Whei Tin are being held.
The Irrawaddy’s reporter Salai Thant Zin contributed to this report
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