BUTHIDAUNG — Authorities have arrested at least six men in Rakhine state this month on suspicion of associating with the Arakan Army (AA), amid fighting that has displaced at least 5,000 civilians.
The most recent known arrest was of Aung Tun Sein, a 10-household head from Alae Chaung village in northern Rakhine.
He was detained on January 20 under the controversial Unlawful Associations Act, upper house MP Maung Kyaw Zan told Myanmar Now.
The military made the names of four of the men public in a January 15 statement, while the lawmaker confirmed the other two arrests.
The arrests came as the UN’s human rights envoy to Myanmar, Yanghee Lee, urged the government and military not to target Rakhine civilians.
“The ethnic Rakhine population must not be demonised and targeted by the military on suspicion of association with the AA,” she said in a January 18 statement.
The Tatmadaw’s January 15 statement said four villagers were charged after interrogations revealed that they had been reporting the activities of Tatmadaw security officers to the AA. It also said accused two of the villagers had collected protection money on behalf of AA.
Maung Kyaw Zan said there had been previous cases in the area of people being charged “because of external pressure. I don’t want that to happen again,” he said.
But he added: “If they really violated the law, then they must be charged.”
The NLD government asked the military to “crush” the AA after its attacks on police posts killed 13 on January 4, a government spokesperson said earlier this month.
Lee said she was “seriously concerned about the dangerous rhetoric being used by the government.”
Aung Tun Sein was arrested while sheltering with 260 others at a monastery in Don Thein village, a week after he fled fighting in Alae Chaung village.
The other three accused of having connections with Arakan Army (AA) were Thayat Pin village administrator U Maung Tun Hlaing and the villagers Maung Kyaw Win and U Aung Htay, he said.
Ko Zaw Win Tun, Aung Tun Sein’s son, said his father and other villagers were interrogated at the local police station several times before his arrest.
“I’m worried about him,” he said.
Battalion Commander U Aung Kyaw Zaw, of Maungdaw district’s Security Police Battalion Number 3, said he did not have an update on the case when contacted by Myanmar Now.
Photo caption: The court at Buthidaung Township (Photo by Phyo Thiha Cho/ Myanmar Now)