Three residents of the village of Maung in the Lay Myo area of southern Chin State’s Paletwa Township have been missing for more than two weeks, according to local sources.
The villagers disappeared while on a trip to buy food and other supplies in Mrauk U Township in neighboring Rakhine State. They have not been seen since September 14.
“They left Sein Ouk in Mrauk-U Township around 1pm. They were travelling by boat. As far as I know, they disappeared near the village of Ngo on their way back from Mrauk-U,” Lwin Thang, a resident of Ko Phay Chay, another village in the Lay Myo area, told Khonumthung News
“Their relatives tried to find them on September 18, but nobody has been able to track them down,” he added.
The three missing persons were identified as Maung Pu Sel (a) Maung Saw, 40, Maung Maung Pe, 32, and Hla Khaing, 23. All three are married and farmers.
People in the Lay Myo area routinely travel by boat to Mrauk-U and Minbya townships in Rakhine State to buy basic foodstuffs such as rice and cooking oil.
After the family members carried out a search for the missing villagers, they reported their disappearance to police in Than Htawng, who have yet to uncover any leads in the case.
According to a statement released by the Khumi Affairs Coordination Council (KACC) on August 30, at least 10 local civilians have disappeared in Paletwa since clashes between the Burma Army and the Arakan Army (AA) began earlier this year.
Although there has been no concrete proof to support the allegation, the KACC and local people say they believe the AA is responsible for the disappearance of the missing villagers—a charged that the group has categorically rejected.
Khine Thukha, a spokesperson for the AA, said it was possible that Burma Army forces dressed in AA uniforms were targeting local civilians.
“We haven’t carried out any arrests like this. Burma Army soldiers sometimes pretend to be AA soldiers when they do security checks on boats on the Lay Myo River. They are Rakhine soldiers in the Burma Army. The army uses Rakhine soldiers to sow disunity between the AA and local people,” Khine Thukha told Khonumthung News.
He added that if a local villager is suspected of being an informant for the Burma Army, they will be questioned and then released with a warning.
In February of this year, the AA abducted 54 civilians from the village of King-talin in Paletwa Township and took them to their camp on the Bangladesh border, where most of them remained until they were released nearly six months later.
In a separate case, the headman of Than Tawng, another village in Paletwa Township, was taken into custody by the AA and interrogated on suspicion of acting as an informant to the Burma Army. He was also released.
Ongoing clashes between the Burma Army and the AA in Paletwa Township have displaced thousands of local people and resulted in tight restrictions on the movement of food and other goods.
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FACEBOOK: “Burma Army soldiers sometimes pretend to be AA soldiers when they do security checks on boats on the Lay Myo River. The army uses Rakhine soldiers to sow disunity between the AA and local people,” said AA spokesperson Khine Thukha.
TWITTER: Three more #Paletwa #villagers have #disappeared, with neither the #BurmaArmy nor the #ArakanArmy taking responsibility for the apparent #abductions. #Burma #Myanmar