Singapore has arrested at least six Myanmar nationals accused of fundraising and other activities in support of the Arakan Army, an ethnic armed group battling the Myanmar army in Rakhine state, regional media and the city-state’s Ministry of Home Affairs said on Wednesday.
“The Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) is taking action against several Myanmar nationals for using Singapore as a platform to organise and garner support for armed violence against the Myanmar government,” the ministry said in a statement. “This is inimical to Singapore’s security.”
“Investigations reveal that a group of Myanmar nationals in Singapore have organised and mobilized some members of the local Myanmar community to support the Arakan Army (AA) and its political wing, the United League of Arakan (ULA),” it said.
The ministry did not specify how many Myanmar nationals were targeted. It said that they “will be deported from Singapore” after their immigration paperwork is cancelled.
The online Myanmar news site Irrawaddy said six people from the Arakan Association (Singapore) were arrested. It named them as association chairman Hein Zaw, vice-chair Aye Myat Mon, communication officer Ye Kyaw Htet, and Tin Hlaing Oo, Aung Myat Kyaw and Tun Aye.
The Irrawaddy reported that Ko Aung Myat Kyaw is the younger brother of AA chief Tun Myat Naing, one of four top leaders charged last week by the Myanmar Police Force under the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law.
On July 4, authorities charged commander-in-chief Major General Tun Myat Naing, deputy commander Nyo Htun Aung, Brigadier General Kyaw Han, and spokesman Khine Thukha for violating the law, and declared them fugitives, said Aye Nu Sein, an attorney based at the Rakhine State High Court in Sittwe.
The four are accused of involvement in a deadly January assault on police outposts and subsequent roadside bomb attacks, and of inciting 13 villagers from Mrauk-U township to assist the AA in its clashes with Myanmar troops, she said.
The move against members of the AA, an ethnic Rakhine army fighting for greater autonomy in the state, is the first in which any ethnic leaders have been charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law.
Singapore’s MHA noted that “the AA has been designated a terrorist group by the Myanmar government” and it said “the Myanmar nationals investigated were found to be supporters of the AA,” mobilizing support and providing financial support for the group.
“MHA takes a very serious view of anyone who supports, promotes, undertakes or makes preparations to undertake armed violence, regardless how they rationalise such violence ideologically, or where the violence takes place,” said the ministry’s statement.
“They should not import their domestic political issues from their countries into Singapore,” it added.
The Irrawaddy quoted an AA spokesman, Brig-Gen Nyo Tun Aung, as saying the Myanmar government must stop target AA members’ relatives, Rakhine peace activists and civilians.
“The Myanmar government and military leaders should restrain from arbitrary detentions. They need to patiently and munificently find solutions to the issues. If they are continuously doing this, the situation will only get worse,” he was quoted as saying.
“The Myanmar government and the Tatmadaw need to bravely find solutions, and we are always ready to do so,” he said, using the Myanmar Army's Burmese name.
Hostilities between Myanmar forces and the AA intensified in late 2018 and again in January, when Arakan soldiers carried out deadly attacks on police outposts.
Human rights groups at home and abroad have called on Myanmar forces to stop arresting, detaining, and torturing civilians suspected of being members of the AA or having connections to the rebel army. They say such detentions and deaths in custody by soldiers violate international human rights treaties.
According to reporting by RFA’s Myanmar Service, at least 15 persons died of injuries they received while in military or police custody or detention between March and July during the Rakhine armed conflict.