After a primary school principal and two villagers were found dead of knife injuries in the jungle in Paletwa Township on January 10, the Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC) accused the Arakan Army (AA) of playing a role in their disappearance and murder.
Khonumthung News spoke to the AA’s spokesperson Khine Thukha about the allegations.
People have accused AA soldiers of murdering Sihpalaung primary school principal Abyayla and two Kyet-Ou-Wa villagers. What response do you have to this?
KACC accused AA troops of arresting a schoolteacher, who was ethnic Khumi, and two Rakhine villagers in Sihpalaung village. Then the dead bodies were found the next day. This case was completely unconnected to us. The incident site is located behind [the Burma Army’s]IB-289 [territory]and the Mee River bridge next to IB-289. The Burma Army’s artillery unit is stationed there. The Burma Army’s military columns are on patrol there. So security was so tight there. As far as I know, the Burma Amy’s informers killed the villagers. This case is totally unconnected to us.
So AA troops didn’t arrest them?
No, we didn’t arrest them. Our military unit was not deployed there. Some Burmese soldiers and their informers arrested these villagers and killed them. Then they leaked information that AA troops killed these villagers. I think it’s a political move. It’s because they want to create [an image of]AA as a terrorist group in the international community before Chinese President [Xi Jinping’s] trip to Burma.
AA troops are stationed in Kyeelay village. there have been reports that an AA soldier tried to rape a woman in the village and that AA soldiers beat the village headmen. Did AA soldiers do this?
Our soldiers didn’t do this. We already investigated our respective battalion commander. We already reported a video record of investigation into our battalion commander. We already talked with villagers. We also investigated the woman. Our soldiers didn’t commit it. One of our military columns entered the village on that day for the reason of searching suspected informers of the Burma Army. The suspect informer ran away. So our soldiers detained two of his daughters. Finally, their father returned home. Our soldiers hit the two daughters with bamboo sticks during the investigation. We already took action against the officer with our military law. Our soldiers didn’t try to rape the woman. Our soldiers didn’t commit sexual harassment.
Many people are worried about interethnic conflict between the Chin and Rakhine because of AA’s movements in Paletwa Township. What would you like to say to this?
Actually, there has been no conflict between the Chin and Rakhine in the Paletwa area. The Burma Army has created the conflicts between the Chin and Rakhine. Moreover, the Burma Army has created religious and interethnic conflicts between the Rakhine and the ethnic Khumi. The AA has a policy not to accept religious and ethnic discrimination. We don’t accept religious and ethnic discrimination. We don’t accept human rights abuses. According to AA policy, if a person commits a human rights abuse, whoever they are, we will take strong action against the perpetrator.
AA troops have arrested and detained Chin parliamentarian Hawi Ting. Could this cause interethnic conflict and increase hate between different ethnic groups?
The case of the arrest of Hawi Ting is a separate issue. It’s because we observed the activities of Hawi Ting for many years. We knew very well what Hawi Ting had done. Some organizations have continued be like Hawi Ting, following the path of Hawi Ting. Why we are still detaining Hawi Ting is because we don’t want any religious and interethnic conflict. Therefore, we arrested him. We have concrete information, data, records, and evidence about him. If we release him now, religious and interethnic conflicts could possibly occur in the Paletwa region. That’s why we are still detaining Hawi Ting.
Do you mean that the AA doesn’t have a plan to release Hawi Ting?
It depends on the situation. We are closely watching the situation… I cannot tell you exactly when we will release him.
How is Hawi Ting’s health?
His health is good. He is still very well. We have safely detained him up through now.
We are worried about one thing—you already know it: the Burma Amy has opened fire using their artillery randomly. For security reasons, both local people and Hawi Ting are unsafe. People in Ann, Kyaukphyu, Maungdaw, etc. are not safe. Nobody is safe in this region, because nobody knows where the shells will land. [The Burma Army] is firing their artillery wherever they want. Therefore, we cannot make any promises or guarantees.
Thank you for your time and answers.
This interview was lightly edited for clarity.