Locals in Arakan State’s Minbya Township say Tatmadaw troops have been raiding their homes and questioning villagers for alleged ties to the Arakan Army, which is currently engaged in clashes with government forces in northern Shan State as a member of the Northern Alliance coalition of ethnic armed groups.
Aung Tun, administrator of the Awa village-tract in Minbya, said security personnel comprised of soldiers and police officers began searching homes in the area within the past week, after a homemade bomb was found outside the village of Melwan at the beginning of January.
“The [security forces] raided every home in our village, checking their household lists and asking for details about absent family members — where they are and what they do and such. They also searched the homes thoroughly,” said Aung Tun.
A resident from the village of Hpapyo, located in the area subject to the security sweep, said the searches were causing panic among the local populace.
“The soldiers were carrying weapons and the villagers were scared — we had to answer every question they asked. They said they were from army battalions in Minbya and Mrauk-U [townships]. They asked how many people we have in our family and checked that everyone was present,” said the villager, who asked for anonymity.
Hla Thein Aung, a state legislature MP for Minbya Township, said the army raids on local villages must stop.
“The army previously had already questioned at their base the schoolteacher Shwe Lone and other individuals whom they suspected of connection with the AA [Arakan Army], and raiding village homes in addition to this is unnecessary,” said Hla Thein Aung.
After the discovery of the roadside bomb on 1 January, the Burmese military hauled in for questioning several former political prisoners who were previously jailed on charges of unlawful association for alleged links to the Arakan Army. Security forces subsequently began raiding local villages including Zipingyi; Gwasone; Thinbokchaung; Shwezingon; Hpapyo; Awaywa and Htaunkche. According to local villagers, no one was detained in those raids.
Though the Arakan Army gets its namesake from the western state, the bulk of its active members are thought to be operating in northern Shan and Kachin states, where the Northern Alliance has traded hostilities with government security forces in recent months.
The Northern Alliance announced its formation in the wake of deadly attacks staged by the coalition on 20 November. The four-member alliance also includes the Kachin Independence Army, Ta’ang National Liberation Army and Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army.
Sporadic clashes between Tatmadaw and Arakan Army troops have also taken place in Arakan State in recent years.