Myanmar Police Interrogate 21 Hostages Freed by AA

By Min Aung Khine 6 November 2019

SITTWE, Rakhine State—Twenty-one out of 25 civilians abducted by the Arakan Army (AA) from a ferry in Rathedaung Township on Oct. 26 and released on Tuesday are being detained by authorities for interrogation.

The AA handed 25 civilians over to the administrator of Ngwe Taung Village in Buthidaung Township on Tuesday morning. Four of them returned home on their own and the rest were taken by local lawmakers and government officials to Buthidaung, said Upper House lawmaker U Maung Kyaw Zan of Buthidaung Township.

“We took them from the village and arrived at Buthidaung Township General Administration Department around 2 p.m. [on Tuesday] but they were not able to even enter the office. Police from No. 3 Border Guard Police Force were waiting to take them for interrogation,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.

“I asked why and they said a case was opened in Rathedaung regarding the [abduction] case and [the abductees] will have to testify. They were interrogated throughout the night and they have not yet been released,” he told The Irrawaddy midday Wednesday.

Out of concern for the safety of the civilians, U Maung Kyaw Zan and Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Aung have been staying with them since yesterday.

“I asked the police to conduct the interrogation at the General Administration Department. They said they can’t for security reasons. They said the interrogation will not last long. But [the civilians] have not yet been released. They have been interrogated by Border Guard Police, local police, the Military Security Affairs Office and Tactical Command. As a result, they are suffering both physically and mentally. This is not fair,” said U Maung Kyaw Zan.

The Irrawaddy was unable to obtain comments from either Police Brigadier-General Myint Toe of the Maungdaw Border Guard Police Force or the Maungdaw Township administrator about the interrogation.

Police Colonel Kyi Lin, the chief of the Rakhine State Police, said he didn’t know the details of the case because it is being handled by the Border Guard Police.

“They didn’t detain [the civilians] unfairly. They do this for the sake of the people. They might ask them about why they were detained and who detained them, to prevent such cases from happening again. There might be suspicious persons among them. There might be spies [who informed the AA about security personnel onboard] among them. The Border Guard Police do it because it is necessary,” the police colonel told The Irrawaddy.

Among the four people who returned voluntarily, one is from Sittwe, two are from Rathedaung and the fourth lives near Ngwe Taung Village.

The AA seized the Shwe Nadi ferry between Sittwe and Buthidaung Township on the morning of Oct. 26 near Rathedaung Township and abducted security personnel and civilians.

According to AA information officer Khaing Thukha, as the AA took them into custody, the Myanmar military dropped bombs from three helicopters and this forced the AA to bring the civilians and security personnel to a safe place. The AA said in a statement that scores of abductees and some AA soldiers providing security for them were killed in the military’s air attacks.

The ethnic armed group released the other passengers and the vessel reached the Buthidaung Jetty on the evening of Oct. 26.

The Myanmar military, known as the Tatmadaw, said in a statement about the incident that the AA abducted 45 security personnel including 14 soldiers, 29 police officers and two officers of the Corrections Department, which is overseen by the military-controlled Home Affairs Ministry.

Tatmadaw spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun confirmed to The Irrawaddy that the military rescued 15 hostages, including 10 security personnel and five civilians.

The AA’s Khaing Thuka said that all those still being held captive are security personnel. He declined to give the number of hostages or say what the group will do with them.

The police have detained the ferry’s owner and seven crew members for allegedly leaking information to the AA that there were security personnel onboard.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko