UPDATED at 12:47 P.M. ET on 2019-08-08
The severely injured bodies of two missing village administrators from Kyauktaw township in Myanmar’s conflict-ridden Rakhine state were found near a riverbank this week, local residents said Wednesday, as the government military blamed the Arakan Army (AA) for their deaths.
Than Maung, a 55-year-old temporary administrator of Sinoochaing village tract, and Maung Win Naing, ward administrator of Thardarseik village, had been missing since Aug. 3, said the resident who declined to give his name, fearing retribution.
Maung Win Naing's body was found in a woven polypropylene bag, he added.
Both bodies had stab wounds when they were discovered by a bank of the Kaladan River about four or five miles from Sinoopauktaw, one of the communities comprising Sinoochaing village tract, said Colonel Win Zaw Oo, spokesman for the military’s Western Command responsible for Rakhine state.
Than Maung’s daughter, Saw Maw, said that her father and Maung Win Naing had gone to Sinoopauktaw on Aug. 3, but never returned.
“I wasn’t aware of what time my father left home until a boy informed me that he had been arrested by some people,” she told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
But the boy did not know whether police or soldiers had arrested Than Maung, only that he was now in a Muslim village, she said.
When Saw Maw went to the village to look for her father, residents said he had been taken away, and they had no additional information, she said.
When the two bodies were found in the river, some of Saw Maw’s neighbors went to see if one of them was Than Maung.
“And they confirmed it was him,” she said. “There are many stab wounds on his body — three on the right side of his chest and two on the left side of his chest. The body was found four days after he had gone missing, and it was beginning to decompose. The face was unrecognizable.”
RFA could not reach the township administration office or Rakhine state’s General Administration Office for comment.
‘They couldn’t do anything’
Rakhine state police commander Kyi Lin said authorities believe the AA killed the two administrators and have opened a murder case under the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law.
“They must have been killed by the AA,” he said. “There are no other armed groups in the area.”
Win Zaw Oo surmised that AA soldiers believed Than Maung and Maung Win Naing to be government army informants following the seizure of a vehicle with new AA recruits.
Two weeks ago, Myanmar soldiers seized a vehicle that the AA used as a meeting place to recruit new members, and apprehended 10 young men who confessed that they were on their way to join the rebel force, he said.
“The AA must have concluded that the village administrators had been serving as informers since the incident occurred near the village,” Colonel Win Zaw Oo said.
“Some of the villagers saw these two village administrators taken away by seven AA members,” he said. “They were taken by motorboat. They couldn’t do anything.”
RFA could not reach AA spokesman Khine Thukha for comment.
Teacher remanded in custody
Meanwhile, primary school teacher Nay Zaw Linn, who was arrested by security forces as he traveled from Buthidaung township’s Thayatpyin village to Kyarnyobyin village was remanded in custody at the township court Tuesday afternoon, a local education official said.
Soldiers apprehended Nay Zaw Linn on Monday on suspicion of having links to the AA, making him the first government employee to be detained by the national army in Rakhine state's conflict zone.
Soe Ko Ko, deputy chief of the Border Guard Police, filed charges against him under two articles of the Counter-Terrorism Law for allegedly having ties to the AA, said Buthidaung township education officer Win Hlaing.
“They transferred him to the [military’s] Na Kha Kha 3 [regiment], and he was sent to the court and remanded in custody,” he told RFA.
Nay Zaw Lin’s father, Kyaw Than, said court authorities would not let him see his son.
Colonel Win Zaw Oo said that soldiers had detained Nay Zaw Lin for suspicious activities and found a messenger application on his cell phone.
“He texted information such as when a military column was passing through the area and the latest locations of the regiment, so we arrested him to investigate his intentions for sending this information,” he said.
“The police must have found some significant evidence to charge him,” he said.
Reported by Zin Mar Win and Kyaw Htun Naing for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.