The abbot of a local monastery and another man were arrested in Arakan State’s Mrauk Oo Township on Monday after they organised a football match dubbed the “Arakan Army Cup.”
U Nanda Thara, the monk, and Khine Ni Min were attempting to hold the sporting competition to commemorate the eight-year anniversary of the Arakan Army’s founding, with the pair likely to face trial on Unlawful Association Act charges.
A police officer in Mrauk Oo told DVB that authorities arrested the abbot of Mya Tansaung Monastery and Khine Ni Min after a case was filed by a local infantry battalion.
“[We] arrested them under the Unlawful Association Act. The case was first filed by LIB [Light Infantry Battalion] 540 and we had to open the case. We had to arrest them based on the investigation and case file.”
Yan Naing Latt, a police officer in Sittwe, said the two men had been transferred to the Arakan State capital and made an initial appearance before a court there on Monday afternoon.
Arm Thar Gyi, the chair of Sittwe-based civil society group Thigaha Kanlett, told DVB, “The case was filed at Mrauk Oo Police Station, not at our Sittwe [police jurisdiction]. Now, they are at the Sittwe court. Mrauk Oo Police Station has had a case open since 8 April. But we will continue the match as planned.”
Authorities last week pressured the abbot not to go forward with the football match planned for Monday, seizing a vinyl banner promoting the event.
The match, along with a concert and speeches from literary figures, were due to be held on the Mya Tansaung Monastery’s grounds to coincide with the day marked as the anniversary of the Arakan Army’s formation on 10 April 2009.
Several people have faced unlawful association charges for alleged ties to the Arakan Army, including 13 youths sentenced to three years’ imprisonment in June 2016.
The Arakan Army is one of several militant organisations to engage in hostilities with government troops in recent years, escalating its conflict with the Tatmadaw in November when it joined three other ethnic armed groups to stage a coordinated assault on military and police installations in northern Shan State.