YANGON — Yangon police have arrested four suspects in the murder of a government official who had recently been transferred from his post in a Rakhine State township where police shot and killed seven protesters earlier this month, the Ministry of Home Affairs announced Wednesday.
Bo Bo Min Theik was found dead with multiple stab wounds to his chest near the highway running through Rakhine’s Ponnagyun Township on Tuesday evening. He was a government official in Rakhine’s Mrauk-U Township when local authorities there ordered a violent crackdown on a protest on Jan. 16 that resulted in the fatal shooting of seven people. Amid public outrage over the shootings, Bo Bo Min Theik was transferred to the state capital Sittwe three days later.
The ministry’s report says police received a tip that one of the suspects, Ko Min Than Htay, 20, son of the former administrator of Mrauk-U Township’s Tein Nyo village, U Kyaw Myint, was planning to visit his youngest brother on Wednesday in Yangon, where they arrested him at a bus stop.
The same day, at 7:40 p.m., Yangon police arrested U Kyaw Myint, who now runs a local furniture shop, along with his wife Daw Kyi Kyi Win and daughter-in-law Ma Khine Zar Hlaing, 20, at a Buddhist nunnery.
The police also confiscated two cars belonging to the suspects, along with 75 million kyats ($56,476), and have been questioning them.
The ministry report did not say whether Bo Bo Min Theik was murdered over a personal dispute with U Kyaw Myint’s family or whether they even had a relationship. It also did not say whether the victim or any of the suspects owned the car in which the body was found.
Rakhine residents are demanding that the union government launch an independent investigation into the police shootings in Mrauk-U with the help of recognized human rights experts, civil society representatives, lawmakers and other relevant government officials.
The Rakhine State Parliament has already established an investigation team of local lawmakers.
State government Secretary U Tin Maung Swe told The Irrawaddy that Bo Bo Min Theik had been summoned by the Mrauk-U police inspector for questioning over the deadly police crackdown on Jan. 25 and was returning to Sittwe on the afternoon of Jan. 30 in his friend’s car. It is not clear who was driving.
Some Mrauk-U residents say Bo Bo Min Theik and U Kyaw Myint were once close friends and even celebrated the Water Festival together last year.
U Kyaw Moe Oo, the administrator of Tein Nyo village, said U Kyaw Myint’s daughters, who live in the village, also claim that their father had been on a trip to Yangon since Jan. 28. That would place him outside of Rakhine State at the time of the murder.
U Hla Maung Gyi, a farmer in Yoe Ngu village, said he witnessed the car Bo Bo Min Theik was in get into an accident and saw three people flee the scene into the surrounding forest.
“Three people entered the forest but I have no idea who they are,” he said.
Once informed of the incident, Ponnagyun police arrived at the crime scene at 6 p.m. and identified the body based on documents inside the car. While they were transporting the body to the Ponnagyun hospital, a group of people arrived at the car by motorbike and torched it, according to the ministry report.
Bo Bo Min Theik’s funeral is being held in Sittwe this afternoon. Rakhine State Chief Minister U Nyi Pu and some cabinet members paid their respects.
Min Aung Khine contributed reporting from Sittwe.