Arakan Army abducts three NLD candidates in Rakhine State
Daw Ni Ni May Myint, Daw Chit Chit Chaw and U Min Aun are running for office in Taungup. For their release, the kidnappers demand the release of detained Rakhine politicians and students arrested in recent protests. For the rebels, the NLD is “democratic authoritarian regime”.
Yangon (AsiaNews/Agencies) – The Arakan Army (AA), a Buddhist rebel group, claimed responsibility for the abduction, last week, of three candidates running under the banner of the National League for Democracy (NLD) in next month’s elections.
The three were grabbed as they held campaigns rallies in Taungup, a township in the southern part of Rakhine State.
On Tuesday, the AA announced that the three would not be released until the government releases all ethnic Rakhine politicians and civilians arrested for affiliation with the AA, along with students arrested for demanding peace.
The three abducted candidates are Daw Ni Ni May Myint, Daw Chit Chit Chaw and U Min Aung and are respectively running in Taungup for the Lower House, Upper House and Rakhine State legislature.
AA operatives in civilian clothes seized the three during as stop in the village of Hpaung Kha on 14 October. Daw Ni Ni May Myint and U Min Aung are seeking re-election.
Eyewitness said that the AA members physically abused the candidates, including slapping and kicking them, cursed them as “traitors” and “backstabbers” and told them to remove clothing bearing NLD logos. Their phones, party flag and party funds were also taken.
In a statement issued on Monday, the AA described the NLD candidates as “crooked” and as “Burmese puppets and traitors”. It said the three would be detained for further questioning and their release would come at the AA’s discretion.
AA spokesman Khaing Thu Kha reiterated the group’s accusation that “they are not only disturbing the revolution, but collaborating with” the Myanmar army to “commit torture and killings against civilians.”
NLD spokesman Dr Myo Nyunt said it is inappropriate for the AA to arrest and punish anyone who has a different opinion from their own. Furthermore, the NLD candidates were acting in accordance with the law as they canvassed the township for votes, he said. He slammed the AA’s abduction of NLD candidates as “a threat against the NLD’s election campaign.”
Since the AA is an outlaw movement, the NLD cannot directly contact the rebel group and has to rely on the government to secure the release of its members. However, the AA and Myanmar’s military have been fighting in the western state of Rakhine for years.
This conflict is compounded by violence against Myanmar’s Rohingya Muslim minority, whose members have been persecuted by the Buddhist majority.
The AA accuses the NLD-led government and its leader, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, of encouraging the arrest of civilians, attacks as well as "collaboration" with the military. The rebel group has described the NLD as a “democratic authoritarian regime”, and accused the military of war crimes.