Rakhine minister presses armed group to withdraw contested claims of war crimes
THE Rakhine State Ministry for Border Affairs and Security is continuing to pressure an ethnic armed group to retract a statement it made alleging forced portering by the Tatmadaw. The ministry, which is headed by a military appointee, refuses to release a detained communications officer of the group until its demand is met, according to members of the armed organisation.
Representatives from the Arakan Liberation Party met with Border Affairs Minister Colonel Htein Lin on July 29, but the two sides failed to reach any agreement, according to Major Khine Nay Lin, a senior member of the ALP. At the meeting, the minister reiterated a request that the offending statement be withdrawn or amended.
In April, the ALP released a report accusing the Tatmadaw of committing war crimes and violating the Geneva Convention by forcing Rakhine civilians to act as porters and human shields. The report included video and photo testimony. The Tatmadaw has strongly denied the allegations.
On July 25, ALP communications officer U Khine Myo Tun was arrested and charged with incitement and defamation under sections 505(b) and (c) of the penal code. Maj Khine Nay Lin said the ALP’s central executive committee will hold an internal discussion about the minister’s request.
“I can’t decide on my own to withdraw or amend the statement because it was issued by consensus. Now we will have to have a discussion about it within the party,” he said.
Rakhine State’s information department confirmed the July 29 meeting as well as the stalemate, but said it is unclear when the two sides will meet again.
According to state government-run social media the Rakhine Gazette, the minister said during the meeting that the case could be dropped if the purportedly inaccurate statement is corrected. However, the ALP did not agree.
According to a Sittwe state police official who asked not to be named, U Khine Myo Tun remains in Sittwe Prison.
“He will have a hearing in court this coming Thursday [August 5] in Sittwe,” said the source.
Col Htein Lin was unavailable for comment yesterday, according to his personal assistant.