Arakan Army Denies Funding Its Operations With Drug Money

Police in Yangon have arrested a woman who they say was helping to fund the rebel Arakan Army (AA) by trafficking large amounts of methamphetamine tablets, a charge the group denies.   

Khine Khine, 32, was caught on Sunday with 6,700 yaba pills when police raided her apartment in Yangon’s Dagon Seikkan township.

The raid followed two large seizures in the city that led police to Khine Khine. Officers found a total of 2.6 million tablets, worth over eight billion kyat ($5.25m) in the baggage holds of two highway buses that serve the route between Yangon and Sittwe. 

Khine Khine was attempting to ship the drugs to the Rakhine State capital, police said.  

The AA has been engaged in bitter fighting with the Tatmadaw in Rakhine since late last year. Thousands of civilians have been displaced by clashes amid accusations of widespread human rights abuses. 

Khine Khine, who is ethnically Rakhine, was recruited by the AA while working without official documentation in Thailand in 2015. 

Police say she has been a recruiter and fundraiser for the group ever since, but the AA says she stopped working for them after a year. 

Also known as Khine Khine San or San Chay, she has shipped drugs via the Sittwe-Yangon bus route five times before, police claim. 

Khine Thuka, an AA spokesperson, told Myanmar Now that Khine Khine never sold drugs to finance the group and no longer works with them: “She served in our group only for about one year and left us in 2015.” 

She was an AA agent assigned to find recruits in Thailand, but never received military training or attained any rank, he said. 

“She only had a non-combatant role and only briefly,” he added. “She helped with recruitment and propaganda in Thailand.”

The police’s allegations were designed to tarnish the AA’s reputation among members of the international community, he said. 

Ethnic armed groups fighting for more autonomy in Myanmar’s border areas have long been accused of involvement in the country’s lucrative narcotics industry. 

President Win Myint has sought to show he is tackling the trade, with officials ramping up announcements about drug seizures since he came to power last year.

Earlier this month, two Taiwanese citizens and a Myanmar national were caught with 74 kilograms of crystal meth in Yangon’s South Okkalapa township. 

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