Rakhine Villagers Face Double Terror Charges Over Attack on Myanmar Authorities
By Min Aung Khine 27 September 2019
SITTWE, Rakhine State—Police have brought another charge against 16 out of the surviving 24 detained residents of Lekka Village in Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township under the Counter-Terrorism Law for allegedly attacking a police battalion.
Twenty-seven men were arrested by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) on April 10 in Lekka on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army (AA), an ethnic rebel group which the authorities have designated as a terrorist organization.
They were arrested after the AA launched an attack on a temporary military outpost and a police battalion in Mrauk-U on April 9.
Tatmadaw spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy that they are AA fighters disguised as civilians. But AA spokesman Khaing Thukha denied the civilians were AA fighters.
The detainees were tortured during interrogation by the Tatmadaw, according to their relatives.
Three Lekka residents, aged 25, 35 and 41, have died in military detention. The Tatmadaw said one of the deaths was a suicide, one was related to a heart condition and another was drug-related.
The military has charged the others under the Counterterrorism Law and Arms Act 1949. They are facing trial at Sittwe District Court.
Two of the Lekka defendants are minors and were granted bail. They are being tried at a juvenile court in Mrauk-U.
Police have brought another charge against 16 of the detainees under the Counterterrorism Law for allegedly helping the AA’s attack on the police battalion headquarters.
“Sixteen villagers face another charge under the Counterterrorism Law. It is unreasonable to charge a person twice under the same law,” defense lawyer U Aung Sitt Min told The Irrawaddy.
The Irrawaddy was not able to contact the head of Mrauk-U police for a statement.
The Lekka defendants were brought to Sittwe District Court on Thursday, but no hearing has been held in the case as it involves 112 fugitives. The next court hearing is set for Oct. 8.
Ma Thein Ma Yi, wife of U Khin Maung Soe, who is facing the double charges under the Counterterrorism Law, said: “We want the trial held swiftly. They were brought to the court [on Thursday], but the judge did not hear the case. And they were told that another charge was filed against them. I don’t know what it is. We are in deep trouble. We have been surviving on food from the refugee camp.”
More than 60 villagers from Mrauk-U, Kyauktaw and Minbya townships are being tried in Sittwe under the Counterterrorism Law for their alleged ties to the AA.
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