Burma Army Releases 35 More Kyauktan Villagers—40 Still Detained

Govt forces have barred residents from leaving the village as they investigate community members and allege ties to the Arakan Army.


Thursday, May 9, 2019

The Burma Army has released 35 more villagers from the Rakhine State community of Kyauktan, where it has been keeping residents on lockdown.

Four men were reportedly transferred to a police station, with the Tatmadaw alleging that they had links to the Arakan Army (AA). More than 40 people remain in military custody in the village.

“The Burma Army is still investigating these villagers,” a local said of the 40 still being held. “Villagers in Kyauktan are [still] not allowed to go in or out of the village.”

NMG reported on Wednesday that members in the community have been prohibited by government troops from gathering or harvesting food or collecting water and that they didn’t “have anything to eat.”

On Wednesday, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief reported that five suspects “confessed” that they were members of the AA and would be charged under existing laws. They have since been transferred to the Rakhine State capital of Sittwe.

The suspects included 17-year-old Thein Aye Maung, 28-year-old Soe Win Kyaw, 30-year-old Nyi Nyi Htay, and two others who were unnamed.

Locals in Kyauktan dispute these allegations and say that the accused men are civilians without ties to any armed groups.

“There are no AA members in our village. They are all villagers. They don’t have documents for family registration. They don’t have any link with the AA,” a local told NMG on the condition of anonymity.

The Burma Army has detained hundreds of villagers aged between 15 and 50 in Kyauktan, which is in Rathedaung Township. They released 126 villagers on May 2 and 48 on May 6.

“These villagers have suffered from economic hardships because they cannot go out from the village. I feel so upset for the people’s suffering,” Daw Khin Saw Wai, an MP from Rathedaung, told NMG.

She said the villagers remain “trapped” emphasized the need for the Burma Army to respect villagers’ rights and hold investigations that are in line with the law.

“The Burma Army complained that there were clashes in the Buthidaung area and that AA members had hid in Kyauktan village,” Daw Khin Saw Wai explained. “They can arrest and charge AA members under the law if they have firm evidence. But six villagers have been killed and eight wounded,” she said, referring to those who have died while in military custody.

The incident was reported to the President, State Counsellor, military commander-in-chief, and the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission by the Arakan National Party on May 2.