A Khumi organisation issued a statement calling for the release of 52 ethnic Khumi that it claims were kidnapped by the Arakan Army (AA) and used as human shields in Chin State.
The Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC) said the victims, all from Kangtlang, located in Paletwa township, were kidnapped in early February and taken to the Bangladeshi border.
Two managed to escape and tell their harrowing tale to their community.
AA used the villagers as human shields when the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) attacked with combat helicopters, said Saw Mya, coordinator of KACC. “The AA said that villagers volunteered to go to the Bangladeshi border but it’s not true.”
AA forced the Khumi prisoners to work for them, said the statement. They aren’t getting enough food. After missing for three months, their family members are very worried and want them released.
“We understand AA has political objectives. They can fight with Tatmadaw where ever they want. It’s their decision. But they shouldn’t take advantage of civilians for their own agenda. We are asking for their release as soon as possible,” Saw Mya said.
KACC has requested assistance from political, social and religious organizations, including the Chin state government, to help release the prisoners.
Khaing Thukha, in charge of AA information department, said his group didn’t kidnap the villagers, they saved them by taking them away from an area where there was heavy fighting with the Myanmar Army.
“These people are still living on the border (with Bangladesh). We rescued them. AA isn’t forcing them to stay, they are volunteering to be there.”