Myanmar Lays Terrorism Charges Against 5 Rakhine Men Beaten in Viral Video

A cellphone video showing soldiers assaulting them was posted on social media on May 10 and went viral.

Myanmar Lays Terrorism Charges Against 5 Rakhine Men Beaten in Viral Video

Five ethnic Rakhine men who were filmed being beaten by Myanmar military soldiers on a naval vessel in late April have been charged under the country’s Counter-Terrorism Law for suspected ties to an ethnic armed group, their lawyer said Wednesday.

The men were arrested by government forces on suspicion of having links to the Arakan Army (AA), a mostly ethnic Rakhine group fighting government army for greater autonomy in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

The Myanmar government in March declared the AA an unlawful and terrorist organization.

The Myanmar military also announced that seven others deemed fugitives are linked to the case, he said.

Myanmar military Major Tint Naing Tun filed the charges against Myo Lin Oo, Nyi Nyi Aung, Htay Win, Kyaw Win Aye, and Min Soe, who face a maximum penalty of life in prison if found guilty, Kyaw Nyunt Maung said.

The five men were among a group of 38 civilians detained days after Myanmar forces shelled Kyauk Seik village in Rakhine’s Ponnagyun township on April 13, killing eight civilians and injured more than a dozen others.

Myanmar soldiers later released the other detainees.

The plight of the five men came to light when a cellphone video showing soldiers on board the naval vessel punching and kicking them was posted on social media on May10 and went viral.

Family members of the men told RFA in an earlier report that those arrested had been forced to confess to being AA fighters, though the relatives and friends denied that that was the case.

Following their court hearing, the five men were taken to Sittwe Prison where they are being held during the court proceedings, Kyaw Nyunt Maung said. Their next hearing is scheduled for June 6.

Military investigation

Earlier this month, Myanmar’s military admitted that the soldiers used unlawful and improper interrogation techniques while detaining the five Rakhine men as they were being transported by boat to Sittwe.

Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said at a press conference on May 22 that the defense forces chief ordered an investigation into the alleged abuse.

He also said that the military takes legal action against soldiers found guilty of torturing civilians during questioning.

RFA was unable to reach Zaw Min Tun Wednesday for an update.

“If they asked us about whether we are pleased because these soldiers will be  charged under military law, then there is no reason to be pleased because the villagers have already been hurt,” said Soe Thein Maung, uncle of Nyi Nyi Aung, one of the five men charged.

“We need laws and people who can prevent this kind of case,” he added.” It's not good to take action against people after [the abuse] occurs.”

AA spokesman Khine Thukha said the charges illustrate the shortcomings of the country’s judiciary.

“The villagers who were abused and terrorized have been charged under the Counter-Terrorism [Law]. It shows how much Myanmar’s judicial system has been ruined,” he said.

Myanmar soldiers often detain and question civilians suspected of having ties to the AA. More villagers caught in conflict zones are now being charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law following the government’s declaration of the AA a terrorist group.

Rakhine state Attorney General Kyaw Hla Tun said during a state parliament meeting on May 20 that there are more than 100 court cases in 13 townships in which people have been charged under the Counter-Terrorism Law.

Fighting between government and Arakan forces has left 154 people dead and 350 injured people in Rakhine state and in Paletwa township of neighboring Chin state since the beginning of the year.

Reported by RFAs’ Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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100 Houses Burned in Abandoned Chin State Village Amid Myanmar-Arakan Army Conflict

Locals are reluctant to assign blame for the torching to Myanmar or Arakan Army soldiers.

100 Houses Burned in Abandoned Chin State Village Amid Myanmar-Arakan Army Conflict

About 100 houses in an abandoned village in war-ravaged western Myanmar's Paletwa township, one of the epicenters of armed conflict between the government military and the rebel Arakan Army, have been burned to the ground in an apparent act of arson, ethnic Chin sources told RFA on Wednesday.

The houses in lower Meelatwa village were torched intentionally on Tuesday amid fighting that began nearly 17 months ago and has raged in Chin state’s Paletwa township and in adjacent northern Rakhine state, locals said.

Roughly 30 other houses are still standing in lower Meelatwa village, they estimated. Most of these houses have been deserted since February after artillery fire prompted fearful residents to abandon their homes and seek refuge in Paletwa town and as far away as Yangon.

The sources, however, were reluctant to assign blame for the village torching to Myanmar or Arakan soldiers, who seek greater autonomy for ethnic Rakhine people in Rakhine state, which abuts Paletwa township.

One local villager who requested anonymity of out of fear for his safety said some area residents tried to extinguish the flames, but they fled when unknown assailants fired guns at them.

“It must have been caused by arson [because] no one lives in the village,” the man told RFA, adding that his home was among those burned down.

“Yesterday, some people went there and had to flee when assailants fired guns at them,” he said. “Now, no one dares to go to the site.”

Chin state lawmaker Salai Myo Htike said the cause of the fire in the village is unknown.

“It’s hard to say how many out of about 100 houses were burned down, but I can confirm the fire” he said. “We cannot tell if it was caused by armed groups or a forest fire.”

Chin state government spokesman Soe Htet was not available for comment.

Nearly 700 people lived in Meelatwa village, located on the east bank of Kaladan River across from Paletwa town.

Salai Tay Ya, director of the Chin Human Rights Organization, said that burning the abandoned village was violation of human rights.

“This is a very horrible human rights violation, no matter who the arsonists are,” he told RFA. “The villagers had plans to resettle in their former homes. Now they have lost them all.”

AA spokesman Khine Thukha blamed the arson on Myanmar troops who came down from nearby mountains, entered Meelatwa village, and burned the houses in the lower part of the community.

“Some villagers went there to put out the fires, but the government troops fired warning shots to scare them away,” he said. “The houses had been burned to the ground.”

RFA could not reach Myanmar military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun for comment.

Letka village torching

The village burning follows the mid-may torching of at least 200 houses in abandoned Letka village in Rakhine’s Mrauk-U township.

Letka residents fled their community in April 2019following clashes between Myanmar and Arakan forces and sought shelter in displacement camps

Zaw Min Tun recently told the media that the AA was responsible for the arson during a battle, though no evidence has surfaced to back up the allegation.

New York-based Human Rights Watch has called for an investigation to determine who was responsible for the May 16 fire.

The Myanmar military widely used arson as an attack tactic during the 2017 crackdown on Rohingya communities in northern Rakhine state, burning down entire communities.

The violence left thousands of Rohingya dead and forced a mass exodus of about 740,000 others across the border and into Bangladesh.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

Source : Radio Free Asia More   

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