Villager Dies in Military Custody in N. Rakhine

By Min Aung Khine 26 June 2019

SITTWE—A resident of the village of Pauk Taw Pyin in Rakhine State’s Maungdaw Township died while being taken to a hospital by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) on Tuesday, four days after soldiers arrested him.

Family members said they only became aware of the man’s death after his body arrived at Kyauktaw Township Hospital.

Soldiers arrested the 23-year-old male as he was returning to Pauk Taw Pyin from work on June 21, villagers said.

“As he returned from his bricklaying job at Waithali Pagoda, he was detained by a Tatmadaw unit and was not released. We found many injuries from a beating on his body as well as on his head. His neck was also broken,” the man’s uncle told The Irrawaddy.

Residents of Pauk Taw Pyin have fled out of concern for their safety, he added.

Relatives took the man’s body from the mortuary at Kyauktaw Township Hospital to the Mrauk-U Township cemetery.

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information team said the detainee’s health had deteriorated while he was in custody, and he died en route to the hospital.

Family members retrieve the body of a man who died during military detention from Kyauktaw Township Hospital. / Ko Kyaw Hla Myint

“We will know the cause of death when [the results of] a postmortem examination come out,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Family members believe the man was tortured to death while detained.

“When we went to take the body, hospital staff told us that the military brought him in, saying that he fell from a vehicle. But we believe he died because of torture,” the man’s uncle said.

According to U Tun Tha Sein, a lawmaker in the Rakhine State parliament representing Mrauk-U Township, the death brings to five the number of villagers in Mrauk-U who have died during military detention since March.

“[The military said] one died because he was a drug addict, another hanged himself, and that another died due to heart problems. They died after being detained by [the military]. It is suspicious,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy.

Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said the military detained eight individuals on June 21 on suspicion of being Arakan Army (AA) members following clashes between the ethnic armed group and the Tatmadaw on a mountain in Mrauk-U to the east of Pauk Taw Pyin village. The man who died was one of these eight.

The Tatmadaw also detained two suspicious-looking people on a motorcycle after a mine was detonated on Yangon-Sittwe Road near the village of Tein Nyo as military trucks passed by on June 22.

The Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services said that the two were found to be carrying a book containing details of extortion activity and a phone containing a screenshot of a video call made to the AA.

In another case, soldiers stopped a vehicle that was transporting a patient from the village of Pan Myaung in Minbya Township at around 9 p.m. on March 12 and detained 10 persons on board.

The patient was unable to reach the hospital in time and died during detention, family members said.

On April 10, the Tatmadaw arrested 27 residents of Lekka village in Mrauk-U Township, accusing them of being AA fighters. Three villagers died during detention.

The Tatmadaw said the three died because of a drug-related condition, a heart problem and suicide by hanging, respectively.

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