YANGON —Lieutenant Thein Shwe, the acting police chief of northern Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, was shot dead on Tuesday while he and two other officers were searching for a suspected drug dealer in the area.
Police Major Soe Naing told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the lieutenant’s body was taken to the local general hospital the day he was shot. He declined to provide further information because he was busy with funeral arrangements.
According to local news reports, Lt. Thein Shwe left downtown Rathedaung with Lance Corporal Win Tin and Special Branch Lieutenant Soe Naing Tun in a private car at about 1 p.m. to arrest a suspected drug smuggler in Kyauk Tan village. When they arrived, the suspect had already left and was believed to be hiding near the villages of Kharu Chaung and Rakhaung Chaung.
According to the same news reports, citing a police statement, the two survivors said they were ambushed by an armed group moments after stepping out of their car to search a roadside hut. The officers said they managed to escape and that Lt. Thein Shwe died at the scene.
It is unknown who informed the police of the suspect’s whereabouts. A team including local military and police officials visited the scene of the shooting on Wednesday to investigate. Senior officials could not be reached for details.
A police officer in Rakhine State who recently served in Rathedaung said Lt. Thein Shwe was a native of Rathedaung and had been investigating the high-profile case of union lawmaker U Aye Maung and author Wai Han Aung, who are facing multiple charges including treason for allegedly promoting support for the outlawed Arakan Army during a public speech in the township earlier this year.
Residents of Rathedaung told The Irrawaddy that the area where the lieutenant was shot dead was predominantly ethnic Arakanese and near the foot of the Awrama mountain range, where the Arakan Army fought with the Myanmar military in 2015 and 2016.
In a separate case in January, a recently transferred government administrator for Mrauk-U, in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun Township, was stabbed to death in a car heading toward the state capital, Sittwe. A few days after the murder, the Ministry of Home Affairs arrested four suspects in Yangon and blamed the Arakan Army for the attack, an accusation the armed group denied.