YANGON — Seven locals from Tain Nyo village in northern Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township were summoned by authorities for questioning on Saturday and only one person had been released as of Wednesday, according to local sources.
Arakanese lawmaker U Tun Thar Sein of Mrauk-U constituency (1) told The Irrawaddy that police brought six men and one woman from Tain Nyo village—situated at least 10 miles from town, with a population of some 3,800—in for questioning.
He told The Irrawaddy over the phone on Wednesday that four villagers had been arrested and were in Mrauk-U police custody and two others were being held at the government administrative office. The reason for their detention is unclear. Speculation is that it is related to the recent murder of former Mrauk-U official Bo Bo Min Theik or for arms possession.
According to police procedure, cops are not to detain ordinary residents for more than 24 hours without charging them.
This week, police searched homes in Tain Nyo village and arrested former village administrator U Kyaw Myint and his son Min Than Htay in Yangon in connection with the murder of Bo Bo Min Theik.
Bo Bo Min Theik was stabbed to death on Jan. 30 in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun Township while returning to state capital Sittwe from Mrauk-U, where he had been summoned for questioning over a police crackdown on a Jan. 16 protest there that left seven civilians dead.
Following the police crackdown in Mrauk-U, the Arakan Army (AA) issued a statement threatening to take “serious retaliatory measured against the culprits” including Rakhine State government officials and members of security forces involved in the killings.
The Ministry of Home Affairs on Feb. 5 accused the AA of the murder of Bo Bo Min Theik. AA spokesman U Khine Thu Kha denied that AA soldiers were involved on Tuesday and pointed out that its soldiers did not use M-16 assault rifles, as a government announcement had stated in connection with the crime. He criticized the police of trying to deliberately tarnish the AA’s reputation.
The Irrawaddy phoned the Mrauk-U district police official on Tuesday in order to clarify the reason for the detention of seven villagers, but he declined to answer.
A schoolteacher from Mrauk-U said police have searched nearby villages since the police crackdown and that locals were frightened.
To look into the Mrauk-U crackdown, the Rakhine State Parliament established a nine-member investigation commission last month. It was expected to start the inquiry process on Feb. 3 but has been delayed due to regional instability.
U Tun Thar Sein said that regional legislators were holding legal consultations with law experts in order to avoid reaching beyond parliamentarians’ legislative power in carrying out the investigation. The team hopes to collaborate with various government departments in Mrauk-U, he added.