Ethnic Issues

Army Arrests Village Administrator in Rakhine

By Moe Myint 18 May 2019

YANGON–A village administrative official from northern Rakhine State’s Kyauktaw Township was arrested by army troops on Thursday.

U Thein Soe Aung, an official of Shwe Pyi village—about 8 kilometers north of Kyauktaw Township—was accused by the Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, of providing rations to Arakan Army (AA) rebels.

Villagers say a military column with more than 70 soldiers under control of Regional Command No. 9 of Kyauktaw Township entered the village on Wednesday. Four township police also joined the army column and inspected the village after questioning villagers at the village monastery.

The following day, dozens of soldiers surrounded U Thein Soe Aung’s home and searched the entire house but did not find any firearm or ammunition, according to villager U Maung Mae Sein, who witnessed the arrest.

U Maung Mae Sein said that U Thein Soe Aung operates a shop in front of his home as a major source of income for his family. Soldiers were suspicious of the large quantity of goods in the shop and of packages of dry rice stored on the ground of U Thein Soe Aung’s home, which they had taken photographs of, he said.

When U Maung Mae Sein and some villagers asked the army column about the detention, an officer told them that U Thein Soe Aung is an important suspect and will be questioned for a while.

According to villagers, U Thein Soe Aung was brought to a navy vessel docked on a river near the ethnic Mro village of Mar Lar.

With the detainee’s family members concerned, U Thein Soe Aung and U Maung Hla Kyaw, a Rakhine State parliamentarian, inquired about the detention with Kyauktaw Township authorities this morning.

U Maung Hla Kyaw said an army officer confirmed the detention but did not precisely answer whether they would allow family members to see U Thein Soe Aung.

A township administrator confirmed with a military battalion commander over the phone that the arrest had taken place but, as it was carried out by another military column, that commander had no further detail as of this morning.

This afternoon, the Office of the Commander in Chief’s website released two photos and some brief information on the arrest of the Shwe Pyi village official, saying army troops and police had jointly inspected the village after being tipped off about the mingling of AA rebels and villagers.

While army troops were checking the village, U Thein Soe Aung photographed the soldiers from his home. When soldiers inspected his phone, they say, they found photos relating to AA rebels, then discovered a dry rice bag, noodles, rehydration salt packages and other commodities.

“Family members told me the goods seized by the army are their normal selling commodities to neighboring villages,” U Maung Kya Hla said.

The army said it will take action against U Thein Soe Aung in line with procedures for those having relations with the AA.

U Maung Mae Sein explained that his village has the largest population of five nearby villages, including Ale Kyun, Kyauk Ngu Su, Thar Si, Myauk-Taung and Mar Lar village, and as such, those villages mostly rely on the goods from U Thein Soe Aung’s shop.

“My village is like a center here. Locals from neighboring villages normally come to buy commodities from U Thein Soe Aung’s shop,” said U Maung Mae Sein.

Shwe Pyi is home to more than 600 families.

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