Seven political prisoners found dead in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

The Arakan Army said it discovered the bodies after capturing townships.
By RFA Burmese
2024.02.12
Seven political prisoners found dead in Myanmar’s Rakhine state Reporter Myat Thu Tun in Maungdaw town’s Ah Lel Than Kyaw village on Dec 22, 2016.
RFA

UPDATED at 10:23 A.M. ET on 02-12-2024

Junta troops shot and killed seven people arrested in a key city in Rakhine state in western Myanmar, a family member of one of the victims told Radio Free Asia on Monday. The victims included a journalist and a well-known social media commentator. 

The bodies were discovered after the Arakan Army, or AA, captured in Mrauk-U on Thursday, according to an AA statement. The exact dates of death are unclear.

Mrauk-U is a historic city in the northern part of the Rakhine state and is famous for ancient Buddhist stupas. Its capture caps weeks of rapid advances by the AA in the western part of Myanmar that have put the Burmese military on its heels and suggests a turning point in the country’s three-year civil war, which broke out after a military takeover of the democratically-elected government in February 2021. 

Most of the victims discovered in Mrauk-U were in their 20s to 40s, the AA said in its statement late Sunday. Kyaw Zan Wai, also known as Phoe La Pyae, was popular for criticizing the junta through jokes on Facebook. Myat Thu Tun, who often published under the name Phoe Thiha, was a former reporter for media outlet Democratic Voice of Burma. The other civilian victims were Kyaw Thein Hlaing, Kyaw Win Hlaing, Ko Nyunt, Win Naing and Pyae Sone Win.

The bodies were buried and the victims’ families were not informed of their deaths, the AA said. Junta troops arrested the men in late 2023 and all were held in custody at the Mrauk-U Police Station. 

They were transferred to Mrauk-U-based military Battalion 378 when fighting broke out between the junta and AA on Dec. 24, 2023, according to family members.

When fighting escalated on Jan. 31, two soldiers shot the seven prisoners and buried them in a bomb shelter near Mrauk-U Hospital, the AA statement said.

Myat Thu Tun was in contact with his family until Dec. 25, but after Christmas, they did not hear from him, his wife Ohn Mar Shwezin Myint told RFA on Monday.  

“When Mrauk-U city was captured by the AA, I was so happy that he was about to be released,” she said. “But when I came to know that they had been killed and buried, I was devastated. It hurts.”

Myat Thu Tun worked for 7Day News Journal, Democratic Voice of Burma, The Voice, Development Media Group and other domestic and international news agencies.

“I was so sad,” she said. “They were brought into the military battalion when the fighting broke out in December. I still got in touch with him around Christmas. He said he was safe. That was the last I heard.”

Junta troops also attempted to hide the bodies of two other civilians, according to the AA After capturing Mrauk-U and Minbya townships, resistance troops discovered the bodies of Nyi Nyi Aung from Rathedaung township and Kyaw Nyunt from Minbya township. Both were killed on Jan. 19 by Minbya-based junta infantry Battalion 379, the statement said.

The junta has not released any information regarding the deaths. RFA phoned Rakhine state’s junta spokesperson Hla Thein, but calls went unanswered on Monday.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.

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