Mass arrest in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ends in interrogations, beatings

Villagers say at least three people died as a result.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.30
Mass arrest in Myanmar’s Rakhine State ends in interrogations, beatings An aerial view of Sittwe town, Rakhine State on Oct 16, 2017.
RFA

Myanmar’s junta detained hundreds of villagers in Rakhine State, including children, over suspected links to ethnic minority insurgents and beat at least three people to death, residents told Radio Free Asia on Thursday.

The security sweep appeared aimed at preventing the Arakan Army insurgent force making more advances after a string of recent gains and stopping them from closing in on the state capital of Sittwe, residents said. 

“The junta soldiers ordered all villagers to gather and they’ve been detained all day since yesterday,” said one resident of Byian Phu village, which is several kilometers north of Sittwe.

“Now, the men have been taken in military vehicles. The women and children were gathered in the cemetery,” said the villager, who declined to be identified in fear of reprisals.

Another villager said three people were beaten to death while junta soldiers interrogated them

RFA could not verify the villagers’ accounts and telephone calls to Rakhine State’s junta spokesperson, Hla Thein, to seek information went unanswered. 

The Arakan Army has seized junta bases in Rakhine and Chin states since a ceasefire between the junta and one of Myanmar’s most powerful insurgent groups ended in November.

Residents have accused junta troops of carrying out indiscriminate attacks on civilians, recruiting members of the persecuted Rohingya Muslim minority and detaining  civilians hostage on suspicion of supporting groups fighting  the junta that seized power more than three years ago. 

As the Arakan Army gets closer to Sittwe, residents said the junta has increased security, arresting and interrogating more people.

About 100 junta soldiers conducted the raid on Byain Pyu  at noon on Wednesday, iand checked lists that households are meant to keep of overnight visitors, a monitoring system made stricter since the army seized power again in a 2021 coup.

Soldiers also went from house to house to search for anyone hiding from them, residents said. Some people were beaten and taken away, along with valuables discovered in their houses, residents said. 

Another villager, who also declined to be identified for safety reasons, told RFA that at least three men were beaten to death by the junta soldiers.

“Men were being interrogated near the tea shop at the market. They were beaten and interrogated one after another. One of my relatives died there,” the Byain Phyu resident said. “It is said that two or three more people died. The bodies have not been returned.”

In northern Rakhine State, the Arakan Army captured Rathedaung and Ponnagyun townships in March and Pauktaw in January, leaving only Sittwe and Maungdaw, near the border of Bangladesh, under junta control. 

While insurgent forces in several parts of the country have made significant gains since late last year, seizing numerous junta camps, villages and towns, no group has captured a state capital.

The junta has arrested 425 civilians in Rakhine State  since November, the Arakan Army said in a statement on Monday. Fighting in the state had killed 268 civilians and wounded 640, it said. 

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 

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