Writer arrested by junta while trying to deliver aid in Myanmar’s Rakhine state

Wai Hin Aung said last week that international assistance will be needed in Cyclone Mocha recovery effort.
By RFA Burmese
Writer arrested by junta while trying to deliver aid in Myanmar’s Rakhine state Writer Wai Hin Aung delivers cash assistance to cyclone victim families in Shwe Mingan village in Sittwe township, Rakhine state, Myanmar, on May 23, 2023, a few hours before his arrest.
Credit: Wai Hun Aung Facebook

A well-known writer and social activist was arrested at a military junta checkpoint on Tuesday while attempting to deliver humanitarian aid to victims of the recent cyclone that devastated the region.

Wai Hin Aung was arrested in western Myanmar’s Rakhine state just after passing through the checkpoint in Sittwe township on his way to villages affected by the May 14 storm known as Cyclone Mocha, according to a person close to the writer who refused to be named for security reasons.

He was traveling with a group of five people, including his daughter, the person told Radio Free Asia. 

“He was going to Ponnagyun to deliver aid to cyclone victims there,” the person said. “We haven’t got any contact with them so far. Nor do we know why they have been arrested.”

Earlier on Tuesday, Wai Hin Aung reported on his Facebook page that he had given 100,000 kyats (US$50) each to 16 families sheltering at a school in Sittwe township. 

RFA interviewed him on Friday, asking whether rice bags and other supplies were beginning to make it through to affected areas.

“What I know for sure is that the help from the junta alone will not suffice the need because the damage is too large,” he said. “About 3 million people have been affected by the storm and about 120,000 households have been damaged, too. 

International assistance needed

People in Pauk Taw and Rathedaung townships urgently need drinking water and shelters, he said. In Pauk Taw, sea water has mixed in with most of the drinking water reservoirs from the flooding that followed the storm, and even cattle can’t drink the water and are beginning to die, he said. 

With the rainy season set to begin soon, rebuilding adequate shelters for villages throughout the state should be the top priority, he said. Food and medical supplies are also urgently needed but are second and third priorities, he said.

“In my opinion, the help from the junta and local communities will not meet the needs of victims,” he said. “That’s why I want the junta to cooperate and get help from international organizations to effectively help the victims.”

Wai Hin Aung was previously arrested in 2018 along with Rakhine nationalist lawmaker Aye Maung after they delivered speeches at a public event in Rathedaung township calling for revolt against Myanmar’s ethnic majority Bamar-led government.

He was sentenced the following year to 20 years in prison for high treason and to two years for incitement. He was freed in February 2021, weeks after the military junta overthrew the civilian government.

RFA called Rakhine state Attorney General Hla Thein to ask about the arrest, but his phone rang unanswered on Tuesday.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Matt Reed and Josh Lipes.


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