Unidentified gunmen capture and beat two Rakhine villagers near Inn Din

Two villagers in northern Rakhine state were hospitalised after a group of unidentified armed men tied them up, threatened them with knives and beat them with the butts of their guns last week.

Kyaw Zaw Aung, 55, and Min Thein Tun, 38, were out at work cutting bamboo when they were detained and blindfolded by five men who beat them for two hours. They guessed the gunmen were Muslims because they spoke a different language. 

The two men live in Aung Thukha, a village in Maungdaw that was built in February 2018 a short distance from the remains of a Rohingya village that was burned down in 2017, during the military’s campaign to expel the minority from the region.

The beatings happened about two and half miles south of Inn Din village, where 10 Rohingya men and boys were massacred by soldiers in 2017 and left in a mass grave. 

After Rohingya were cleared out of Inn Din, new dwellings were built there for Rakhine Buddhists and a border police facility was built on land where Rohingya homes and a mosque once stood, Reuters reported in 2018. 

“The gunmen said we have houses to live in and they have no houses,” Min Thein Tun told Myanmar Now. “That we get to live with our children and wives. They said not to come here again to cut the bamboo and the trees.” 

The gunmen told the captives they would only release them if they received an order from their superior to do so. “If the powers that be ordered them to kill us, they would kill us,” Min Thein Tun said. 

“We apologised but they beat us again and again,” he added. “They spoke to each other in their own language and to us in Burmese.” 

They told the gunmen they were from Kalze Yay, a name locals use to refer to Aung Thukha, and then at around 3pm the gunmen released them after apparently receiving a text message from a superior, they said. 

The two men were later admitted to Maungdaw District Hospital.

Kyaw Zaw Aung said the five gunmen appeared to be between 20 and 40 years old and were wearing civilian clothes. One of them put a knife to his throat and threatened to kill him, he told Myanmar Now, adding that he was beaten with the butt of a gun. 

Min Thein Tun said that Kyaw Zaw Aung was detained first, then the gunmen called for him to come to them. He could have ran away and escaped, he said, but he didn’t want to leave Kyaw Zaw Aung behind. 

Soe Aung, the Maungdaw District Administrator, speculated that the militants may have been from the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), but Myanmar Now was unable to confirm this. 

Attacks by ARSA on border police posts in 2017 were used as a pretext by the military to launch its campaign against the Rohingya, killing thousands and burning down hundreds of villages. 

The UN said the campaign was carried out with genocidal intent. The military has argued that any crimes committed were isolated acts and that it has prosecuted soldiers for violating the rules of conflict.

Maung Ohn, a lawmaker for Maungdaw township in the Rakhine State Hluttaw, said he did not believe the gunmen were members of ARSA. “Some people say it sounds like ARSA, I don’t think it is possible,” he told Myanmar Now. 

He suggested instead that the men were cattle thieves. “Last year, buffaloes and cows disappeared in Inn Din. It may be the same people,” he said. 

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