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Rakhine man dies in Myanmar military custody, critics suspect execution

Ten Rohingya men with their hands bound kneel as members of the Myanmar security forces stand guard in Inn Din village of Rakhine State, Myanmar, September 2, 2017. Picture taken September 2, 2017. Handout via Reuters. Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

SITTWE, Aug 12, 2020, The Irrawaddy. A local resident in Rakhine State’s Mrauk-U Township died in the Myanmar military’s custody over the weekend, according to the victim’s relatives, The Irrawaddy reported.

U San Shwe Hlaing, 41, a resident of Pazun Pe Village, went to his brother’s funeral in urban Mrauk-U last week and was detained by the Myanmar military around 5 p.m. last Friday on his way back to the village, according to his relatives.

Light Infantry Battalion 377 of the Myanmar military handed over his dead body to the police on Monday. Police then took the body to the Mrauk-U Hospital and the body was cremated on Tuesday, according to Daw Bu Mache, the younger sister of U San Shwe Hlaing.

“I heard that the military asked the police to come and take the body of my elder brother. Police took his body with an ambulance to the mortuary in Mrauk-U Hospital. So we went to the hospital and found that his body was rotten beyond recognition,” said Daw Bu Mache.

“He is neither a member of the AA [Arakan Army] nor a mentally impaired person. After the funeral of our brother mid-day [on Friday], he left for his village in the evening and went missing after that. We heard that he was arrested. But we had just lost a brother—we had no time to look for him and we did not know where to look for him,” she added.

The Irrawaddy was unable to obtain comment from the Mrauk-U Township police.

The military’s Tatmadaw True News Information Team said on Monday that an unknown man was attempting to open a gate of a military unit in Mrauk-U around 9:15 p.m. on Friday. Guards fired two shots at him after the man did not answer their questions, according to the report. The man then allegedly ran away but the guards arrested him.

The military claimed that the man is an AA private, with Service Number A-6737. The military said they were going to hand him over to the Mrauk-U Township police station so that legal action could be taken against him. However, the statement did not mention the name of the detainee nor publish his photo.

“Even if U San Shwe Hlaing is guilty and has ties to the AA, he must be punished in line with the law, but extrajudicial execution is not the way,” Rakhine State lawmaker U Tun Tha Sein of Mrauk-U Township told The Irrawaddy.

In mid-July, a 37-year-old man from Rakhine’s Yanbye Township died while being held by the Myanmar military for interrogation. The military said he took his own life but his relatives expressed doubts about the military’s claim.

During the military’s conflict with the AA in Rakhine State, 20 civilians have died during interrogation by the Myanmar military in Kyauktaw, Mrauk-U, Minbya, Yanbye and Rathedaung townships.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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