Myanmar Police Arrest 31 For Possible Links to Recent Violence in Rakhine State

Police in Myanmar’s violence-ridden Maungdaw township in Rakhine state have arrested 31 people after acting on tips that militants planned to hold a secret meeting in Kyauk-hlay-gar village, the office of State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi said on Monday.

A police patrol in the area arrested the men on July 22 after they failed to produce family registration documents, the announcement said.

The men are now being questioned for possible involvement in the recent violence in Maungdaw township.

The statement also said a 55-year-old man from Maunggyitaung village in adjacent Buthidaung township, who had disappeared from the fields on July 22, was found by a creek near a farm with his throat slit.

The latest murder is one of a string of killings in northern Rakhine state that officials have pinned on Muslim insurgents since October 2016, when militants launched deadly attacks on border guard posts in Maungdaw and neighboring Rathedaung townships.

The assaults, which were blamed on an obscure group of militant Rohingya Muslims, sparked a massive four-month security sweep of the three townships in northern Rakhine state during which about 1,000 people are estimated to have died and 90,000 Rohingya fled their homes, with most going to neighboring Bangladesh.

So far, Rakhine authorities have charged more than 500 local Muslims and deemed 1,300 others fugitives for their alleged involvement in the October 2016 attacks.

Though the crackdown ended in February, authorities recently put government soldiers and border guard police patrolling the area on high alert in the wake of a series of disappearances, murders, and other attacks on security forces.

The United Nations Security Council adopted a resolution in March to send an international fact-finding mission to Myanmar to investigate atrocities that the country’s army is said to have committed against the Rohingya during the crackdown in northern Rakhine, but the Myanmar government has denied entry visas to the mission.

Boat capsizes off Buthidaung

In Buthidaung township on Sunday, four border police officers and a boatman went missing after strong currents in the river near Tinmay village caused a boat in which they were traveling to capsize, villagers said.

The boat was one of three vessels from the Taungbazar village border police station carrying eight policemen, three of whom swam back to the shore when the boat capsized, they said.

The boat was later found downstream along with some of the officers’ firearms, but the bodies of the four others are still missing, they said.

Calls placed by RFA’s Myanmar Service to Buthidaung’s district police commander and the border police went unanswered.

The officers were returning from security clearance operations in Tinmay village, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy, citing a senior border police officer from Maungdaw who requested anonymity.

On July 9, security forces on patrol near the village killed two suspected militants and arrested another after the men fired on them from a house and detonated a bomb.

Inside the house, security forces seized cartridge cases, bullets, a handmade gun, a remote mine, material for building improvised explosive devices, and a Ba-94 gun which was one of the weapons that belonged to the assailants who raided one of the local border guard stations in the October 2016 attacks.

Reported by Min Thein Aung for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin