Police: ‘Detainees Underwent Training for Money’
By Htet Naing Zaw 30 March 2017
BUTHIDAUNG, Arakan State — More than a dozen Rohingya Muslims in Buthidaung Township who were arrested earlier this month for allegedly undergoing illegal military training claimed that they attended the exercise for money, according to police in the area.
Seventeen people were arrested in the township’s Tinn May village on March 7 and were charged under Article 17 of the Unlawful Association Act.
A total of eleven persons were from the village while the others were from other locations, according to police.
“We interrogated those who were at the training. They said they attended because they received 3,000 kyats (US$2.30) per day to do so,” the head of No. 3 Border Guard Police Force Tun Naing told the media.
A former village administrator, a religious leader, a landowner and a 15-year-old boy were among the detainees; the rest were workers, police said.
The training included martial arts and the use of small arms, according to police officer Tun Naing. Trainees related that they had been instructed that weapons would arrive from Bangladesh after completion of the training, the officer claimed.
A religious leader who is suspected of involvement in attacks on border guard posts in Maungdaw in October last year led the events, according to Tun Naing, who is also the chief of Taung Paza Police Station.
The defendants’ trial began at Buthidaung Township Court on March 27 and the men are being detained at Buthidaung Prison while the trial is ongoing.
According to the police officer, the authorities had been informed that the training activities had taken place from 7 p.m. to 12 a.m. over a series of nights in Tinn May village. The trainees were arrested on the seventh night, according to the police officer, who added that trainees were learning martial arts on that occasion and no arms were found.
“Acting on a tip-off, we cornered them, but some got away,” said Tun Naing. “We arrested them as they were gathering to make a call to Bangladesh with a Bangladeshi phone.”
A villager named Abdur, the son of 60-year-old landowner named Rashdan who is among the detainees, told the media through an interpreter that his father was not arrested at the alleged night-time training but while he was preparing to open his shop in the early morning.
“He said he doesn’t know why [his father] was arrested,” the interpreter related to media. “He can swear by the Quran that he was together with his father every night.”
Another villager named Akhtar, the younger brother of another detainee named Huston, said through the interpreter that he did not support the use of violence.
Police officer Tun Naing claimed that although more police members have been deployed in the area, the force was still too understaffed to fully secure the border.
Earlier this week a group calling itself the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army issued a statement saying that it was carrying out ‘armed resistance’ in the western state.
The statement made a number of demands for Rohingya rights and stated that the group was not associated with any international terrorist groups.
Arakan State has been virtually inaccessible to media and others since a series of attacks on three border outposts in Maungdaw Township on October 9 last year.
More than 70,000 Muslims from the area have since fled to Bangladesh amid “clearance operations” conducted by Burma security forces that have received heavy criticism from the UN and other international organizations.