Thai authorities have confirmed that they have detained the wife and children of a top commander of the Arakan Army, an insurgent group who are fighting for greater autonomy in Rakhine state in northwestern Myanmar.
Hnin Zar Phyu, 38, the wife of Maj Gen Tun Myat Naing, 41, and their daughter Saw Pyae Shun, 11, and 11-month-old son, Myat Lin Zan, were arrested on Wednesday in Chiang Mai.
Thai officials told Reuters that Hnin Zar Phyu and her children were being detained at an immigration office in Mae Sai district of Chiang Rai.
“We are currently investigating her case and they are still in Thailand,” said a Thai immigration official, who did not wish to be named because he is not authorised to speak to the media. “She is being charged with illegal entry because the Myanmar authorities have revoked her passport.”
Rakhine state, also known as Arakan, came to global attention after 730,000 Rohingya Muslims crossed into Bangladesh, fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar after militant attacks in 2017.
More recently, civilians there have been caught up in clashes between the military and the Arakan Army, which recruits mostly from the Rakhine Buddhist majority. More than 35,000 people have been displaced this year, according to the United Nations.
Myanmar has designated the army a terrorist organisation.
A Rakhine activist said he was deeply concerned by the detention of Hnin Zar Phyu in Thailand.
“They should not arrest and deport her to Myanmar authorities because it is well founded that she will be arrested, jailed and persecuted in Myanmar,” said Nyi Nyi Lwin, the head of the Arakan Information Center.
“Arresting Tun Myat Naing’s wife is not very good … and it will create more conflict between the Rakhine people and the government and the Myanmar Tatmadaw [army]. It will never end, it will go on and on,” he said.
In July, Singaporean authorities arrested and deported a group of Myanmar nationals with links to the Arakan Army, saying their activities caused “security concerns”.
Spokesmen for the Myanmar government and military did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment.
Source: Bangkok Post/Reuters