Burma

Myanmar’s AA Rebel Group ‘Cannot Guarantee Safety’ of Detainees in Its Custody

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 30 December 2019

The current military tensions between the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar military in Rakhine State make it impossible to guarantee the safety of those detained by the ethnic armed group, the AA’s spokesperson said. His comments followed the death of a National League for Democracy (NLD) official in the group’s custody last week.

U Ye Thein, chairman of the NLD’s Buthidaung Township office, died on Dec. 25, 14 days after he was abducted by the AA from the party’s office on Dec. 11.

AA chief Major-General Tun Myat Naing told The Irrawaddy shortly after U Ye Thein’s abduction that the group detained him because he planned to organize a rally in support of State Counselor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s defense of Myanmar at the International Court of Justice against a genocide case brought by The Gambia. The African country alleges that the Myanmar military’s operations in 2017, which pushed over 700,000 Rohingya from their homes in Rakhine State, constituted genocide.

The AA said in a statement last week that the Tatmadaw’s Military Operations Command (15) based in Buthidaung launched an artillery attack on a hill controlled by the AA at 9 a.m. on Wednesday, and that U Ye Thein was killed in the attack.

Military spokesman Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun said no clash took place in Buthidaung on Wednesday, however.

The death of the NLD official prompted criticism, especially from the political arena, that the AA was failing to protect those it arrested.

The group has detained NLD lawmaker U Whei Tin since Nov. 3, accusing him of being an informer. The NLD and the Union Parliament have condemned the arrest, and called for the lawmaker’s immediate release. U Whei Tin’s family members have asked the AA to reveal his condition and whereabouts, but the group has not responded.

Regarding the death of the NLD official, the Rakhine armed group’s spokesperson, Khaing Thukha, told The Irrawaddy that not only detainees, but the whole Rakhine community was under threat from the Myanmar army’s shelling.

“It’s an unfair statement; they are only worried for those connected to the NLD,” he said.

The AA also said that U Ye Thein died after sustaining serious injuries from heavy-weapons fire and that his body had been buried.

Last week, the NLD released a statement expressing its condolences over the death of U Ye Thein, and condemning violence against civilians by any armed force.

The Myanmar government’s troops and the AA have been warring against each other since November 2018 in northern Rakhine.

Since then, more than 100 civilians have been killed, while both sides have arrested civilians on suspicion of aiding the other side.

Apart from civilians, the AA’s detainees include government soldiers, police and officials. Last week, the armed groupabducteda director of military-backed telecom operator Mytel along with his driver.

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