Myanmar Security Forces, Civilians Rescued; Ferry Owner, Crew Interrogated After AA Abduction

By Min Aung Khine 31 October 2019

SITTWE – Ten security personnel and five civilians have so far been rescued out of more than 45 abducted by the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

The AA seized the Shwe Nadi ferry between Sittwe and Buthidaung on the morning of Oct. 26 near Rathedaung and abducted 14 soldiers, 29 police, two government officials and various civilians, according to the Tatmadaw, or military.

“As far as I know, 15 have been rescued. Ten of them are from the security forces and the rest are civilians. We are continuing rescue operations with ground forces,” he said on Wednesday.

Of the 10 security personnel rescued, he did not know how many were soldiers and how many police.

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

The police have detained the ferry’s owner and seven crew, according to their relatives.

“The police have interrogated my brother and the crew. They were remanded in custody on Thursday. When we asked the police and the court, they said they have not yet opened a case against them. We haven’t yet seen them since the detention,” Ko Wai Sein Tun, brother of owner U Shwe Than, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

U Ye Thein, chairman of the National League for Democracy in Buthidaung, said he had reported the police detentions to the Rakhine State chief minister, U Nyi Pu, saying that the owner and crew had nothing to do with the incident.

Meanwhile, the AA said many abductees were killed by the military during its rescue operation. The rebel group accused the military of attacking with three helicopters while it was taking the hostages to a safe place for interrogation.

“As the military attacked continuously with three helicopters, many hostages were killed and some AA troops, providing security for them, were also killed,” the AA said in a statement.

The Myanmar military said the helicopters only fired warning shots to assist the rescue operation. The AA tied security personnel into groups of five and shot at them before kicking them into the river, the military said. It added that a police officer survived with some injuries.

“The AA said the hostages were killed [in air attacks]. We have looked but we found no bodies,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy.

The Tatmadaw claimed that it retrieved no bodies because it wanted to conceal its fatal bombing, said AA information officer Khaing Thukha.

“If we tied up and shot personnel and then kicked them into the river, how come one survived? They are trying to conceal what they did,” he said.

Khaing Thukha said he could not give details about the death toll from the ferry.