Abducted Chin Villagers Released by Arakan Army

In a statement, the AA said it released the villagers at their request.

Friday, August 2, 2019

Dozens of Chin villagers who were abducted by the Arakan Army (AA) nearly six months ago have been released and are now back in southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township, according to an AA statement.

The number of villagers who were released and other details remain unclear, but it appears to be confirmed that they were transported to the village of Ohn-thee-wa on Wednesday morning and are now in the care of village elders.

“It’s certain that they brought these King-talin villagers to Ohn-thee-wa, but it’s really difficult to call them. I don’t know the exact number, but I think they will arrive at the rescue camp in town within a day or two if they can travel safely. We will know the number when they get to the camp,” said Kyaw Nyein, the chairman of the Khumi Affairs Coordination Committee (KACC).

AA forces reported that they transported the King-talin villagers, who were first taken into their custody on February 2, to the elders of Ohn-thee-wa village at around 9:30am on July 31.

The AA troops initially forced 54 villagers to return with them to their base camp near the Bangladesh border, but 14 of the captives later escaped. At least one person reportedly died in AA custody.

According to its statement released on Wednesday, however, the AA said it didn’t force the villagers to leave King-talin, but rather “rescued” them from the conflict zone and brought them to “a safe place”.

After five months, however, the villagers asked to be returned to their home because they found it difficult to live in the AA camp during the rainy season. “Therefore, we transferred them to the elders in Ohn-thi-wa village,” the statement said.

NMG attempted to contact the person in charge of the AA’s information department for comment, but did not receive a response.

The AA also said in its statement that it would release all detained people who are not concerned with military affairs at a suitable time and in a secure situation.

International and local human rights groups have accused both the Burma Army and AA forces of committing human rights abuses against civilians in Paletwa Township and other areas where the two sides have clashed.