Arrests continue as two more soldiers snatched in Rakhine State

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News Desk

Tensions continue to grow in northern Rakhine State as Myanmar’s military responds to a series of abductions targeting regime forces in the region.

Dozens have been detained over the past two weeks in connection with the disappearance of junta troops in Sittwe, Kyauktaw, Ponnagyun and Mrauk-U townships, allegedly at the hands of the Arakan Army (AA).

The latest arrests were reported in the state capital Sittwe, where residents said that at least 13 locals were rounded up late last week after two Myanmar army soldiers, including a captain, were captured.

Junta troops and police conducted searches both inside the town and at its entrance, where, according to one resident, at least five people were arrested.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the local said that she saw army snipers deployed at a checkpoint near the entrance to the town and heard gunfire in the same area on Thursday night.

A resident of the town’s Mingan ward also reported four more arrests, while a 46-year-old Muslim man named Maung Maung Khin was detained in Thet Kei Pyin, a village south of the town, according to his wife.

“They picked him up in the market. We still don’t know why,” she said.

Many of Thet Kei Pyin’s residents are ethnic Rohingya Muslims who were displaced by communal violence in 2012. The village has been designated a restricted area.

The regime’s security sweep has also disrupted ferry services in Sittwe, as most of the town’s jetties have been closed as part of the crackdown.

Earlier in the week, junta officials detained at least 30 people in Mrauk-U, an ancient town northeast of Sittwe, after three military intelligence officers went missing there on Tuesday.

A day after the incident, junta soldiers arrested three men from southern Chin State’s Matupi Township who were reportedly in Mrauk-U on business, according to local sources.

Three locals, including a minor, were also arrested on the same day in Paung Toke, a village about 7km south of Mrauk-U. Residents said that soldiers arrived in three military trucks to make the arrests.

The abductions are believed to have begun on June 11, when two soldiers were snatched by men in plainclothes in the town of Kyauktaw.

The AA later claimed responsibility for that incident, saying that it was carried out as retaliation for the detention of several of its members arrested since May.

A week later, another soldier was abducted in the town of Ponnagyun, resulting in the arrest of at least 10 people there.

At a press conference held on June 14, AA spokesperson Khaing Thukha accused the regime of carrying out unlawful raids on the homes of AA members.

“If they continue their actions, we have no choice but to return the favour,” he said.

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