The Arakan Army has denied allegations made by Burma’s Ministry of Home Affairs that the ethnic armed group was a conspirator in the recent murder of a former administrator for Mrauk-U Township in Rakhine State, where a police crackdown last month killed seven people.
“[The ministry] plotted to falsely accuse us,” Arakan Army spokesman Khaing Thukha told DVB.
“At times when an issue arises in the state, ethnic armed groups like the Arakan Army have been subject to attacks by the government with an intention to violate their dignity. Previously, we have been accused a number of times,” he added.
The Arakan Army and alleged affiliates of the group have been targeted by authorities a number of times in recent years, including arrests last year of the organiser of a football competition and a man who launched a hot-air balloon to celebrate the birthday of the ethnic armed organisation’s leader.
Following the police crackdown in Mrauk-U on 16 January that killed seven people and injured several more, the Arakan Army issued a statement threatening to “take tough action against those who slayed the civilians.”
But despite that threatening rhetoric, Khaing Thukha said the Arakan Army was in no way involved in the murder of Bo Bo Min Thaik, the former township administrator for Mrauk-U. He was found stabbed to death on the evening of 30 January beside his car, which had been set on fire, between mileposts 169 and 170 on the Sittwe-Ponnagyun highway.
“Regarding the police crackdown in Mrauk-U, the government has grievously erred. Bo Bo Min Thaik was a leading authority [involved in] the crackdown,” Khaing Thukha said.
“The government issued an announcement in which it appeared to attempt to justify the killings of the civilians. The government has committed such unjust and unacceptable acts.
“It is possible that those who cannot passively accept the injustice murdered Bo Bo Min Thaik,” the Arakan Army spokesman went on to speculate, adding that another potential avenue of inquiry for investigators might be “that Bo Bo Min Thaik’s superiors ‘shut his mouth’ [by killing him].”
On Monday, the Ministry of Home Affairs issued a statement tying the Arakan Army to the former Mrauk-U administrator’s murder based on its interrogation of one of the suspects in the case, Kyaw Myint.
The statement said Kyaw Myint had admitted to police that on the evening on 25 January, he discussed a plan to murder Bo Bo Min Thaik with another four men, namely Ko Latt, Spy, Zaw Myo Aung and Myo Chit Aung. According to the statement, the five men conspired to abduct and murder the recently deposed Mrauk-U administrator while he was relocating to Sittwe some days later.
On 26 January, Kyaw Myint allegedly phoned Bo Bo Min Thaik and offered to help him move to Sittwe.
According to the ministry, Kyaw Myint then called the Arakan Army’s campaign officer Ko Latt and asked him to arrange transportation. Suspect Myo Chit Aung was placed in the role of driver, while the other two men, Spy and Zaw Myo Aung, were assigned to accompany Myo Chit Aung and act as assistants in carrying the baggage and belongings of Bo Bo Min Thaik.
According to the Ministry of Home Affairs, on the day of the move to Sittwe, Spy and Zaw Myo Aung stabbed Bo Bo Min Thaik in the car. The ensuing fracas apparently caused the vehicle to swerve off the highway.
Additionally, the Ministry of Home Affairs alleged that the father and son duo Kyaw Myint and Min Than Htay had previously purchased and transported arms for the Arakan Army and were also involved in the drugs trade.