Ethnic Chin people hold placards calling for an end to conflict in Chin and Rakhine states at a protest in Yangon on July 13. Around 1,000 Chin people had been displaced in fighting between the Myanmar military and the Arakan Army. (Photo: AFP)
Myanmar’s union parliament has agreed to discuss an urgent motion to condemn the Arakan Army for the abduction of an ethnic Chin lawmaker and call for his immediate release.
Hla Moe, a lawmaker from the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD), urged the bicameral parliament to discuss the unconditional and immediate release of MP Hawi Tin and other hostages.
“The illegal acts of this armed group are undermining the efforts and future goals of the government and the people,” Hla Moe told the parliament on Nov. 13. “It is nonsense and unreasonable for the Arakan Army to insist the arrests were made due to security reasons.”
Hawi Tin, an upper house MP for the ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) in Paletwa constituency, was detained by the Arakan Army along with nine others while they were traveling on boats from Paletwa in Chin state to Kyauktaw township in Rakhine state on Nov. 3.
One of five Indian nationals working on an infrastructure project in Chin who was detained with the lawmaker has reportedly died. The other Indians were released by the Arakan Army on Nov. 4 but Hawi Tin has remained in custody.
On Nov. 9, the NLD released a statement that condemned the detention of the lawmaker and called for his immediate release. “It is unfair and damaging the peace process,” the statement read.
Some 43 Chin civil society groups have also called for the release of the MP and urged his captors to treat him in accordance with human rights and dignity norms.
The Arakan Army said it will continue to interrogate Hawi Tin as he is accused of working with Myanmar’s military.
“He secretly recruits and works with ethnic Khumi youth to gather information about the Arakan Army to share with the Tatmadaw,” Arakan Army spokesman Khine Thuka told Myanmar Now, a Yangon-based media group, on Nov. 4.
Pe Than, a lower house MP for the Arakan National Party in Rakhine state, said it is hard to verify the truth as both the Arakan Army and the government have their own accusations over the lawmaker.
“But it would be better for the sake of the country if the Arakan Army released the lawmaker as an MP is elected by the people,” Pe Than, an ethnic Rakhine, told ucanews.
The Arakan Army is a largely Buddhist militia fighting for greater autonomy from the national government for a so-called indigenous "ethnic Rakhine" in the state.
The conflict in Rakhine has killed at least 90 civilians and displaced thousands of civilians since hostilities escalated last December. It also spilled into neighboring Chin state, where thousands of people have been displaced.
Rakhine also has a separate conflict that has seen more than 700,000 Muslim ethnic Rohingya flee to neighboring Bangladesh since August 2017 due to military offensives.