Tatmadaw Seals Off Village, Detains Hundreds In Rakhine State

“I don’t know if they are eating or sleeping! They seized all the mobile phones in the village and we don’t know what’s happening,” said an MP.

By Network Media Group

May 2, 2019

The Burmese Army rounded up hundreds of villagers in northern Rakhine State and are interrogating them in a village high school, depriving them of food and cutting off all communication to family and friends.

Locals told NMG the Tatmadaw has contained about 200 male villagers from Kyauktan village in Rathaytaung township on suspicion they are soldiers in the Arakan Army (AA), a group it’s fighting against in northern Rakhine and southern Chin states.

“They aren’t allowing anyone to enter the village,” said one local who tried to enter the village on May 1.

Rakhine State MP Khin Maung Latt said the Army has kept the men under custody since the morning of April 30. The soldiers separated them into three groups: ten to fifteen years old, sixteen to fifty and fifty-one and up. Eventually, they released the youngest and oldest groups but they’re still detaining over 200 men and not allowing anyone inside, he said.

“I don’t know if they are eating or sleeping! They seized all the mobile phones in the village and we don’t know what’s happening!”

Daw Khin Saw Wai, an MP from Rathaytaung township, said she heard the soldiers weren’t allowing the men to eat. After they put pressure on authorities, the soldiers fed them, she said.

“Cutting off communication, not providing food, water and blankets are human rights violations!” Khin Maung Latt said.

“At least they should allow the villagers to have blankets and mosquito nets. And they need to inform the public why they’re investigating these villagers.”

Rakhine MPs and civil society organizations (CSOs) say the Army and AA need to respect the law and not commit human rights violation.

“Clashes are still happening and innocent men are being investigated and threatened
by the Burma Army. I want it to stop!” said Daw Nyo Aye, who works for a network of CSOs in Rakhine State.

According to the office of commander-in-chief, Tatmadaw (the Burmese Army) seized a mobile AA camp near Hpone Nyo Lek village, in Buthtitaung township, on 30 April. It claimed AA soldiers were hiding in Kyauktan and Zaytitaung villages and posing as civilians. The Tatmadaw temporarily detained 275 villagers and is investigating them at the village high school.

Recently, three villagers died in the Army’s custody in northern Rakhine State and Khin Maung Latt said he and others are worried it could happen again.

“They (Army) shouldn’t violate international human rights law,” he said.

Fighting between the Myanmar Army and AA has displaced people over 35,000 in northern Rakhine State, according to CSOs.