Singapore Deportees in Custody, Families Left in the Dark

By Moe Myint 18 July 2019

YANGON—An Arakan Army (AA) chief’s brother and five other Arakanese deported from Singapore have been in government detention for eight days now, and their family members still have not been informed of their conditions as of Thursday.

The Singaporean government revoked the immigration status of six Arakanese living in Singapore who belong to the Arakanese Association-Singapore (AAS) and deported them last week for allegedly supporting and fundraising for the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed organization currently fighting the Myanmar military in Rakhine State.

Singapore’s Ministry of Home Affairs did not mention the names of the accused in a press release issued Wednesday night. The Irrawaddy has identified the detainees as Ko Aung Myat Kyaw, a brother of an AA chief; AAS Chairman Ko Hein Zaw; AAS Vice Chairman Daw Ye Myat Mon; Ko Ye Kyat Htet; Ko Tin Hlaing Oo; and Ko Tun Aye, all of whom were arrested in separate raids last Tuesday and Wednesday.

Shortly after the last deportees arrived in Myanmar on Wednesday night and Thursday last week, the whole of them were arrested—three at Yangon International Airport and the other three while driving on the Yangon-Naypyidaw Highway. Yangon-Naypyidaw traffic police initially revealed the arrest of the driver,, Daw Aye Myat Mon and a passenger, Ko Tin Hlaing Oo, on Thursday.

As of Thursday evening, Myanmar’s Ministry of Home Affairs—which is under the direct control of the military—had not offered a reason for the arrests. When asked for comment, military spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said that the military is not handling the issue and referred questions back to the Ministry of Home Affairs.

Several phone calls to Ministry of Home Affairs’ spokesperson Colonel Myo Thu Soe on Thursday went unanswered.

Myanmar President’s Office spokesperson U Zaw Htay declined to comment over the phone.

When The Irrawaddy contacted Yangon Divisional Police spokesperson Major Hla Wai, he acknowledged that the Ministry of Home Affairs is the investigating body but, as the investigation is not under the command of Yangon police, he could not provide specific information about the arrests.

Ma De De, the sister of AAS chairman Ko Hein Zaw, told The Irrawaddy that although they visited Yangon Regional Military Command and the Aung Tha Pyay police interrogation center on Wednesday, authorities have not briefed her on her brother’s situation.

“My brother is an innocent person. They should let him go immediately if [it’s] found [he made] no mistake. We are now very concerned for his safety as not a piece of information has been revealed yet,” she said.

Relatives have opened a missing persons case with police.

According to Ma De De, Ko Hein Zaw has worked as an AutoCAD pipeline designer in Singapore for the last decade, and he is the father of a girl that is one year and eight months old. He transferred money every month from Singapore to his wife in Yangon, his sister said.

Asked whether her family has had any legal consultation, she said, “We are ordinary people here, we know nothing about legal procedure. My mom sits alone at home looking dejected. We don’t know where to go for the help. We feel helpless.”

An Arakan National Party (ANP) Upper House lawmaker and an ANP Lower House legislator sent a letter to Upper House Deputy Speaker U Aye Thar Aung, head of the Committee for Supporting Peace and Stability in Rakhine State, asking for help on Wednesday. According to the letter, detainees Daw Aye Myat Mon and Ko Tin Hlaing Oo are Kyauktaw Village natives that had been employed as professional engineers in Singapore for over ten years.

On Thursday, the ANP called on the government to release information on the detainees in a timely manner, as rumors have circulated widely about them on Facebook.