Burma Army Charges Wounded NGO Worker under Terrorism Law

The man, who was shot in Mrauk-U for failing to respond to orders to stop his motorcycle, is under police guard at Sittwe hospital.

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

The Burma Army has filed charges of terrorism against a worker with an international nongovernmental organization (INGO) who was shot by government forces in northern Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township on Sunday.

“When I went to see him at the hospital in Sittwe, I learned that the Tatmadaw [Burma Army] had filed charges against him under the Counter-Terrorism Law. They didn’t do this until media outlets reported that he was an INGO worker. I think this is why they opened the case against him,” Zaw Zaw Tun, the secretary of the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, told NMG.

According to Zaw Zaw Tun, the victim—25-year-old Ye Lin Naing, an employee of UK-based Plan International—is now under police guard as he receives medical treatment for his wounds.

The incident occurred on Sunday night as Ye Lin Naing was riding his motorcycle through the town near some temples where soldiers were on patrol.

“He went out on his motorbike at around 7 or 8pm yesterday [July 28] as soldiers were doing the rounds of two monasteries. The soldiers warned him to stop as he went past them, but he didn’t hear them because of the sound of his motorbike, so he didn’t stop. That’s when the soldiers shot at him,” said a relative of the victim who spoke to NMG.

The family member added that Ye Lin Naing, who was in critical condition when he was admitted to the hospital in Mrauk-U with a chest wound on Sunday night, was transferred to Sittwe hospital the next morning.

“He was admitted to Mrauk-U hospital last night after he was shot in the left side of his chest. He was in critical condition, so they transferred him to Sittwe hospital this morning [July 29],” the relative said.

“This should never have happened. He was out before the curfew,” he added, referring to a 9pm curfew that has been in force in five townships in northern Rakhine State since April.

The relative, who spoke to NMG on condition of anonymity, said the family could see no justification for the terrorism charges or for the presence of a police guard outside the victim’s room at Sittwe hospital.

Zaw Zaw Tun said that Ye Lin Naing was a normal NGO staff member who was not involved with any armed organization.

“His friends, family, and co-workers all told us that he has never committed any kind of violence. He has friends working in our office. He works for an INGO and doesn’t have any connection with any armed group. His family is really upset about this, and so worried about him,” Zaw Zaw Tun told NMG.

According to a report by the Development Media Group, Col. Win Zaw Oo, the head of the Burma Army’s Western Regional Military Command, said that soldiers fired a warning shot to get Ye Lin Naing to stop, but unfortunately it hit him in the chest.

He also said that the soldiers seized a hand grenade from Ye Lin Naing’s motorcycle, and that news related to the insurgent Arakan Army (AA), which has been designated a terrorist organization, was found on his computer.

The Burma Army imposed an Internet blackout in northern Rakhine State and southern Chin State last month as it continues its ongoing offensive against the AA, which is active in both areas. Critics say the move has contributed to the worsening human rights situation in the conflict area.

“Human rights abuses have increased in the area since the government cut off the Internet. In recent days, two people have been shot, including one who died of his injuries,” said Zaw Zaw Tun, referring to Maung Than Tun, 22, who died in Mrauk-U Township on July 24 after being shot in the head by a Burma Army soldier.

“Now another civilian has received serious gunshot injuries. Even though soldiers are committing human rights abuses, the government is doing nothing to stop them. The international community has also been ineffective in putting pressure on the Tatmadaw. That’s why it is doing whatever it likes,” said Zaw Zaw Tun.

According to the Rakhine Ethnic Congress, a total of 63 ethnic Rakhine civilians have died so far this year due to clashes between the Burma Army and the AA.