The Arakan Army (AA) took 15 workers from a Paletwa river port construction site in southern Chin State into their custody on Sunday before releasing them one day later.
The AA alleged that the Burma Army had used the site as a point from which to attack them the day before.
The workers included seven local laborers and eight Indian nationals working on the India-backed Kaladan Multi-modal Transport Project. The initiative involves the construction of a network of roads, ports, and formalization of travel on waterways to connect Sittwe in Rakhine State with the Indian city of Kolkata.
“Our troops detained them temporarily, because the Burma Army took cover in the river port construction site then they attacked us with heavy weapons, rockets and launchers,” AA spokesperson Khine Thukha told Khonumthung News. “They attacked us from the top of this construction site. Therefore, we tried to clear the site where the Burmese soldiers took cover last night.”
Khine Thukha said that AA troops found shells and ammunitions on site, but after taking the people to an area near Kyet-U-Wa village for questioning, determined that they were not involved in the attack.
“These people are not connected with the army, so we released them early this morning,” the AA spokesperson said on Monday.
Chin State government spokesperson Soe Htet told Khonumthung News that the AA soldiers took some 5 million kyat (US$3,550) from the workers. Khine Thukha denied this allegation. Khonumthung News could not independently confirm it.
“AA troops arrested these workers at night, but released them the next morning. I heard that AA soldiers took away 5 million kyat and some property,” Soe Htet said. “The respective authorities are questioning them in Paletwa,” he added, referring to the workers.
Nearly one year ago, on March 30, 2019, AA troops detained 13 workers on the Paletwa-Zorinpwi road, later releasing them when it was determined that they had no military connections.
Ethnic civil society groups throughout Burma have repeatedly called for a halt to foreign investment and mega-development projects in conflict areas.