The Arakan Army (AA) detains a well-known human rights activist, Ko Zaw Zaw Htay (aka Ko Saw Twan), who was abducted on 21 July in Kyauktaw Town, Rakhine State. His family has been unable to contact him since the day he was abducted.
“We don’t know the reason why he was arrested, and we haven’t been able to contact him since,” Zaw Zaw Htay’s sister told The Chindwin.
“We dare not inform his mother (who is now 70-years-old) about the arrest as she has a health condition, and we want AA to release him as soon as possible,” she added.
Zaw Zaw Htay is a member of All Arakan Students’ and Youths’ Congress (AASYC) and working for the Arakan Rivers Network (ARN) that has been actively campaigning for human rights and environmental justices in Rakhine State and beyond.
A local news outlet, the Narinjara, reported that three members of AA with two motorbikes approached him at around 2-pm while he was buying betel nut at a local street vender, and awhile later two other members came and escorted him away.
The reason for his arrest was unknown. But a source close to The Chindwin reported that Zaw Zaw Htay has been vocal on human rights violations committed against local civilians by both Myanmar military and AA’s commanders in Rakhine State.
“I think AA arrested him because he was often critical about some human rights violations committed by the AA commanders in the ground, which AA leaderships may have been unaware of. But when you arrest a person, you should also abide by the international human rights standard and norms. They should inform his family about the reason why he was arrested and allow him a fair trial,” a source closed to Zaw Zaw Htay who asked to remain anonymous for security reason told the Chindwin.
“I understand that this is a revolution period, but you cannot do whatever you want with the gun on your hand, you must respect human rights. And we expected AA to respect human rights, including individual right to freedom of speech and expression,” he added.
Zaw Zaw Htay has been detained for over two months, but his family has been unable to obtain information about where he is held.
Prior to his arrest, Zaw Zaw Htay reportedly wrote a short note on his social media platform about AA, questioning human rights violations committed AA commanders and foot soldiers on the ground.
AA has previous records of abducting civilians, including member of parliamentarian Hawi Ting and five Indian nationals in 2019.
Local civilians in war-torn ethnic regions in Myanmar often suffer grave human violations from both the Myanmar military troops and armed insurgent groups.