Myanmar Police Detain All Arakan Deportees

By Moe Myint 12 July 2019

YANGON—Seven Arakanese individuals, members of the Arakan Association-Singapore (AAS) deported from Singapore this week, have been arrested by Myanmar police since arriving on Wednesday and Thursday, their relatives and friends have confirmed.

Singapore’s Home Affairs Ministry announced on Wednesday that several Myanmar nationals were allegedly using the city-state as a home base for fundraising and supporting the Arakan Army (AA), which is currently fighting the Myanmar military for greater autonomy in Rakhine State. Singaporean authorities did not reveal the names of suspects or the precise number of detainees, nor did they reveal further details of their ongoing investigation of the case.

On Tuesday and Wednesday, AAS Chairperson Ko Hein Zaw and Vice Chair Daw Aye Myat Mon; Communication Official Ko Ye Kyaw Htet; Ko Tin Hlaing Oo; Ko Aung Myat Kyaw, the brother of an AA chief; and Ko Tun Aye were all arrested by Singapore police in separate locations.

Sources close to the accused claim the arrests came at the request of the Myanmar government. Statements from the Singapore government did not address this, and spokesperson for the Myanmar Police Force Colonel Myo Thu Soe denied the two governments had cooperated on the case, according to reporting done by Reuters.

Four deportees—Ko Tin Hlaing Oo, Ma Aye Myat Mon, and two unnamed members of the AAS—arrived back in Yangon on Wednesday night; the following day, Ko Tin Hlaing Oo and Ma Aye Myat Mon were arrested by police while travelling along the Yangon-Naypyitaw Highway. Local media has reported that Ko Aung Myat Kyaw was arrested at the airport on Thursday.

On Thursday, Ye Kyaw Htet (a.k.a. Thar Lay) and AAS Chairperson Ko Hein Zaw landed in Yangon on separate flights. The brother-in-law of Ko Hein Zaw told The Irrawaddy they had been escorted by Singapore police.

Ko Thar Lay arrived on a morning flight while Ko Hein Zaw reached Yangon terminal at about 5 p.m. Singapore police handed them directly to Myanmar police, who led them through immigration.

Ko Hein Zaw’s mother and other family members had been waiting at the arrival gate since the morning but they were not allowed to see him there. His brother-in-law said the family had been told that about five AAS members were being held in Naypyidaw, but he did not know the name of the fifth detainee.

Police Col. Myo Thu Soe declined to comment.

“At the moment, we have nothing to say. We don’t have to announce anything yet,” he said.

In an announcement on Thursday, the AA described the AAS as a charity organization that has been helping the helpless in a conflict that has displaced tens of thousands on the principles of humanitarianism and public consciousness.

“Although [the] Myanmar government has shown that they are providing basic needs for over 50,000 IDPs by spending 300 Kyats ($US0.20) per refugee, in reality most of IDPs do not have sufficient access to food, water, shelter, sanitation or health services and humanitarian aid is much more needed to help them,” it read.

The AAS, the statement continued, is among several humanitarian aid societies “helping the helpless war refugees in Arakan State.”

It criticized the harsh actions of the Singapore government against the Arakanese living and working in Singapore, calling it “detrimental to IDPs in Arakan and [supportive of] the Myanmar Army that has committed war crimes.”

The AA urged the Singaporean authorities to reconsider their actions.

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