Myanmar’s regime has barred Rakhine State residents from seeing their relatives who were detained in response to Arakan Army’s (AA) abductions of junta personnel in June.
More than 40 residents were detained by the regime between June 16-23 in Sittwe, Ponnagyun, Mrauk-U and Kyauktaw townships after the AA seized more than a dozen junta soldiers and police officers in the townships. Some of the civilians have been put on trial and the whereabouts of the majority are still unknown.
Daw Aye Khaing, the wife of U Ba Hlaing, who was detained in Ponnagyun, said: “[Troops] took my husband after a soldier was seized. I can’t find out where he is being held. My husband has no ties with any organization. He does not engage in politics. We make an honest living running a shop.”
Two Ponnagyun-based Light Infantry Battalion 550 soldiers used U Ba Hlaing’s shop on June 16 and one was abducted by the AA as he left. Troops then detained eight residents, including U Ba Hlaing.
On June 20, three Kyauktaw police were abducted. The following day, the regime detained three residents, including social activist Ko Zaw Win. Their whereabouts are still unknown, according to relatives.
Daw Khaing Khaing, the wife of Ko Zaw Win, said: “I can’t find out where my husband is being held. As time passes, my concerns grow that he might be tortured. I am praying that he will soon be brought to a police station or court.”
In Mrauk-U, after four military security personnel were abducted on June 20, nine people, including three Muslim villagers, three Mrauk-U town residents and three ethnic Chin residents, who were in Mrauk-U on business, were detained.
The three Mrauk-U residents were charged under Article 505(b) of the Penal Code for incitement on Monday, said a resident. “But we don’t know where the other detainees are being held,” he told The Irrawaddy.
The regime searched homes and seized at least 25 residents in Sittwe after the AA abducted a navy officer and sailor in the state capital on June 23. Five ethnically Rakhine residents and four Muslims were released on June 29 and 30.
Two Rakhine men were sentenced to one month in prison for being out at night.
The colonial-era Police Act authorizes the authorities to arrest, without a warrant, anyone who cannot explain why they are out at night.
On Monday, eight Sittwe detainees were in court under Article 505(a) of the Penal Code, according to civil society organizations. The whereabouts of the six remaining detainees are still unknown.
U Myat Tun of the Arakan Human Rights Defenders and Promoters Association said preventing visits violated human rights.