Khonumthung News spoke with spokesperson for the Arakan Army (AA) Khaing Thukha following allegations by Chin civil society that the armed group had forced villagers to leave their community.
The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) reported on June 3 that AA forces had abducted 52 Chin people from King-Tlin village in Paletwa Township, southern Chin State, earlier this year.
An escaped villager was quoted by CHRO as saying that King-Tlin residents were forced to gather at a church by AA troops, who then told them that the Burma Army would soon launch an airstrike on the area and should leave. The villagers reportedly refused to go with the AA soldiers, who then allegedly forced them to follow the troops in the direction of the Bangladeshi border.
The interview with Khaing Thukha on the issue can be read below.
Did AA forces arrest 52 King-Tlin villagers and bring them to the border area? What can you say about this?
The Burma Army, based in the strategic location of Tarun-ai, opened fire using 120-mm[shells]
around King-Tlin, Khamawng-wa and two other villages in last February. Therefore, villagers could not stay in their villages. They were hiding in the jungle for a week. They could not go to Tarun-ai, or to Paletwa. There were many Burmese solders deployed on the road. Burmese soldiers would arrest them if they found them. The villagers were afraid of arrest and of being beaten by Burmese soldiers. Therefore, our [AA] soldiers helped them and provided assistance to them. Then we helped them to go to the border area. They safely arrived at the border. When they arrived at the border area, civilian organizations helped and provided assistance to them. After that, they made farms and worked peacefully there.
There were not 52 people. There are over 100 people. They are living there peacefully. When they arrived at the border, they already talked to the media about why they fled. They fled from their village because the Burma Army opened fire on their village using heavy weapons. CHRO reported that AA forces have detained over 50 Chin people. If human rights organizations or human right activists want to see these people, they can go to see them at the Bangladeshi border and interview them. We sometimes provided food for them… We have helped people, whoever are trapped in the clashes. Actually, our soldiers rescued them.
Where are they living now?
They are living in the Bangladeshi border area. It’s close to Pyitawng. I don’t know the exact place. They are living there peacefully. As you know, they are an ethnic tribe who is used to living in a mountainous area. If they have rotating farmland, they are happy to work there. They are living peacefully in the border area.
Did the AA forcibly detain them?
No. We didn’t detain them. We don’t control them. There is no reason to arrest them. We used to help them if they have problems.
Why don’t they return to their village?
Well, they are afraid of the Burma Army. Now if they return to their village or another place in Paletwa, the Burma Army will arrest them and beat them. They will accuse these people of returning from an AA camp. These villagers know the situation and they know about the Burma Army. That’s why they are afraid to go back home.
Are they safe at the border area? You got incorrect information. Actually, there are more than 52 people. There are over 120 people living peacefully there. They are all safe. There is no danger for them. The Burma Army hasn’t reached the place where they are. So they are all safe. They are all living in a safe place.