Rakhine Court Releases Civilians Held for 11 Months for ‘Ties to AA’

By Min Aung Khine 27 January 2020

SITTWE, Rakhine State—A court in Rakhine State’s Sittwe Township released 13 civilians on Friday who had been detained since last February for alleged ties to the Arakan Army (AA).

“The court ruled that they were wrongfully charged,” said defense lawyer U Tun Hla. 

A total of 24 residents from Shin Let Wa Village in Chin State’s Paletwa Township fled their homes last January after the Myanmar military and the AA clashed nearby. They took shelter at the house of a couple in Rakhine’s Kyauktaw Township.

Police arrested the 24 civilians and their hosts on Feb. 4, 2019 on suspicion of having ties to the AA, though the couple informed the ward administrator, the township’s police force and the local General Administration Department about their guests.

Police released 13 of the Paletwa residents the next week, having found no evidence against them, but a major from the Kyauktaw-based Battalion No. 375 opened cases against the remaining 11 Paletwa residents and the couple who sheltered them under the Unlawful Association Act.

“We just want to live a peaceful life back in our village. But it seems that it will not be safe for us to return home and we dare not go back. For the time being, we are just planning to move and find livelihoods in the urban areas [of Paletwa],” said U Maung Saw Hlaing, a Shin Let Wa resident who was released on Friday.

As fighting between the Arakan Army and the military has intensified since last January, around 200 residents of Rakhine State, primarily from Mrauk-U, have been arrested on allegations of affiliation with the AA and charged under the Counterterrorism Law.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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