AA releases remaining soldiers and police detained during Shwe Nadi ferry incident

On Thursday the Arakan Army (AA) released the remaining policemen and soldiers who were arrested by the armed group during a 2019 raid on a Mayu River ferry in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, an AA spokesperson said. 

The AA took 58 people into its custody from the Shwe Nadi ferry on October 26, 2019. The arrests of the police, soldiers, civil servants and civilians on the vessel were carried out near Yay Myak village in Rathedaung.

Within days of their initial detention, the AA released 14 people, and on November 5, they freed some 25 civilians and some civil servants. One more individual was released in February 2020. 

Seventeen more detainees released on Thursday included a prison officer, three police officials from Homalin in Sagaing Region, and 13 military personnel, including a captain from the Buthidaung-based LIB 345.

“We have no more detainees in connection with the Shwe Nadi case. The last ones have now been released,” AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha told Myanmar Now. 

Figures of those released suggest that one Shwe Nadi detainee is unaccounted for; their fate and identity were unknown at the time of reporting. The AA has previously said that some prisoners were killed during the Myanmar military’s airstrikes on their camps. 

The detainees released on Thursday were handed over at 11am near Taintaungpyin village in Buthidaung Township to Lt-Col Aung Zaw, commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 210 under Light Infantry Division (LID) 22, Khaing Thukha said.

Also released were nine additional prisoners, all Myanmar military officers taken into AA custody following clashes. 

Three of the prisoners of war were a sergeant and two corporals—all from different battalions—but who Khaing Thukha noted were elderly and in poor health, which reportedly contributed to the AA’s decision to release them. Six were military personnel from the Paletwa, Chin State-based LIB 289: a lieutenant, two sergeants, two corporals and a lance-corporal.

One day earlier, the AA also released six other military officers previously arrested during a clash. They were turned over to the regime’s armed forces in Kyauk Kyak village in Mrauk-U Township. 

The AA and the Myanmar military engaged in fierce fighting in Rakhine State and southern Chin State for more than two years, but clashes ceased in November 2020 following a mutual agreement. 

On March 11 of this year, the junta removed the AA from its list of so-called terrorist organisations. 

On June 9, the regime released 10 ethnic Rakhine people in detention, including relatives of AA chief Maj-Gen Tun Mrat Naing such as his brother Aung Kyaw Myat and sister Yamin Myat, as well as members of the Arakan Association of Singapore. Their charges, which were for offenses related to ties to the AA, were dropped on June 2.

AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha said that the release of the detainees from the Shwe Nadi ferry incident after nearly one year and eight months was possible because of the junta’s release of Tun Mrat Naing’s relatives. 

“As there were mutually constructive developments, our side also released [the detainees] as a constructive act,” Khaing Thukha said. 

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