Nine held in Myanmar in Rakhine rebel fundraising probe

27 July 2019
Nine held in Myanmar in Rakhine rebel fundraising probe

Nine people subject to a police probe over fundraising for a rebel group fighting Myanmar's military in restive Rakhine state were remanded in custody Friday, including several recently deported from Singapore.

Among the deportees is Aung Myat Kyaw, who is believed to be the brother of Brigadier General Tun Myat Naing, the chief of the Arakan Army (AA).

Myanmar's army has deployed thousands of troops across Rakhine to try and crush the AA, which claims to be fighting for more autonomy for the state's ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.

Scores have died -- including civilians -- in shootings, ambushes and military strikes, although the conflict area is under strict lockdown making independent reporting impossible.

On July 10, Singaporean authorities said they had detained "several" Myanmar nationals -- including one with a "direct relationship with a key AA leader" -- for coordinating the "AA's fundraising efforts" among the Rakhine expatriate community.

Tens of thousands of Myanmar migrants work in the city-state, mainly in construction.

On Friday Yangon deputy district judge Min Thant said the nine were being investigated by police under the Counterterrorism Law.

"We have issued an order to remand them from today to August 9 in police custody," Min Thant told reporters.

The nine are being investigated for financing terrorism, and three -- Aung Myat Kyaw, Tun Aye and Hein Zaw -- over an extra charge of involvement with the AA.

If charged and found guilty, the maximum sentence is seven years in prison.

Min Thant did not clarify if they were all detained in Singapore, and declined to say where the group was being held in Yangon.

The father of the only female suspect Aye Myat Mon, who works as an engineer in Singapore, told AFP he was worried about the lack of information over his daughter's whereabouts.

"We worry about injustices happening," Kyaw Maung said from the Rakhine capital Sittwe. "The authorities should let us know."

The AA could not be reached for comment on Friday. 

Violence between the military and the rebel group has forced more than 30,000 people from their homes in recent months.

The rebellion, which has simmered since the group's formation in 2009, has widespread support from ethnic Rakhine Buddhists, who have felt marginalised for decades in one of the country's poorest states.

Little is known about how the AA raises funds, though "diasporas are often targeted for offshore revenue raising", said independent analyst David Mathieson.