Myanmar’s Military Claim Dead Suspect Was Arakan Army Sergeant

By Min Aung Khine 30 September 2020

Sittwe, Rakhine State — A 38-year-old man from Mrauk-U in Rakhine State who died in custody this week was a sergeant in the Arakan Army (AA), according to Myanmar’s military or Tatmadaw.

The AA is an ethnic armed group which is engaged in fighting with the military in Rakhine State.

The military’s Tatmadaw True News Information Team said on Tuesday that personnel conducting random security checks stopped U Aye Kyaw, who was riding from Mrauk-U to Daungbuk village on Sunday. The statement said troops found information about the AA and evidence of his connection with the organization on his phone.

The alleged AA sergeant admitted to being involved in the arrest of a soldier in Mrauk-U in December last year and two young civilians who are relatives of military personnel in July. The military claimed that as a soldier was preparing to feed him breakfast on Monday, the suspect grabbed his gun and shot himself to death.

U Aye Kyaw was a motorbike taxi driver, according to his relatives. He was arrested in front of the Light Infantry Battalion 377 headquarters while transporting a patient from Mrauk-U to a traditional medicine practitioner in Nadin village at around 8 am on Sunday.

U Maung Nu, the father-in-law of U Aye Kyaw, said: “My son-in-law made an honest living as a motorbike taxi driver. The woman who hailed his motorbike told us he was arrested by the Light Infantry Battalion 377, so we went there. They said they didn’t arrest him and asked us to leave. The following day, they returned his dead body.”

Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Tha Sein of Mrauk-U Township has criticized wrongful deaths in custody. “As a legislator, I don’t want to see wrongful deaths in custody. If he did violate any law, he should be prosecuted in court and face an appropriate punishment after a trial,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The Arakan National Party, one of the major Rakhine State parties, called on Tuesday for a probe into the battalion, claiming that U Aye Kyaw was a civilian who was tortured to death.

U Aye Kyaw’s body was covered in bruises and sent to Mrauk-U Hospital, the party said.

Its statement said the party has repeatedly requested that the president, state counselor and commander-in-chief protect innocent civilians but has received no response and incidents keep happening.

The military said it handed U Aye Kyaw’s body to Mrauk-U Township police. U Aye Kyaw’s funeral was held on Tuesday.

On Aug. 7, a 41-year-old man from Pazun Pe village in Mrauk-U Township was arrested by the Tatmadaw, who returned his dead body three days later.

A 37-year-old man from Thandwe Township also died in military custody in July. More than 30 people have died in military custody in Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Rathedaung and Thandwe townships since clashes between the military and AA in Rakhine State erupted in late 2018.

As the government has declared the AA a terrorist organization, The Irrawaddy was not able to contact the armed group for a comment.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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