Father and son arbitrarily arrested, detained by unknown armed group not seen for 4 months, wife struggling to meet daily needs

January 30, 2019

HURFOM: A father and son working on a rubber plantation in Kaw Sein Ban village, Hpa-an Township, Karen State, were arbitrarily arrested and detained by an unknown armed group on October 8th 2018, and nearly four months after their arrest, the family of the two detainees has yet to receive any information about their whereabouts or well-being, according to Daw Mya Tway Mon, the wife and mother of the two victims.

The victims in question are 42-year-old U Mon Htay Nyne, and 15-year-old Maung Thaw Zin Win, originally from Kaw Kha Loy village, Mudon Township, Mon State.

On the next Uposatha [Buddhist day of observance], it will have been four months since they were arrested…We haven’t heard any news from them…I filed a report at the Eain Du Police Station. On the evening of January 21st 2019, Police Major Myo Aung of the Hpa-an Police Station called me and said an investigation team will visit me…So I’m waiting for them,” said Daw Mya Tway Mon.

On the night of the event, the father, son, and two cattle-grazers had gathered in a hut on the plantation. At approximately 9 pm, three men in civilian clothes from an unknown armed group entered the hut, arbitrarily arresting and detaining the father and son. The three men also stole one of two motorbikes parked beside the hut, according to the wife of the victims.

At approximately 4 pm on October 9th 2018, the day after the two men were apprehended, Daw Mya Tway Mon was contacted by her husband’s and son’s neighbors on the plantation, and informed of the arbitrary arrest and detention. On October 20th 2018, Daw Mya Tway Mon went to the Eain Du Police Station and reported the disappearance of her husband and son.

On December 14th 2018, when authorities learned that the father and son were detained by an unknown armed group, the focus of their investigation changed from “missing persons” to a standing charge against the unknown assailants under Penal Code #365 – kidnapping or abduction with intent secretly and wrongfully to confine person.

They came into the hut, beat the father and son, and arrested them. Initially, we thought this was a ‘missing persons’ case, but when we learned they were likely kidnapped, we filed charges,” said a police officer from the Eain Du Police Station.

After talking to witnesses, the police major of the Hpa-an Police Station confirmed that the father and son were indeed arbitrarily arrested and detained by an unknown armed group.

An officer from the Eain Du Police Station stated that at this time, authorities do not know where the victims are being held, or what condition they are in, but are proceeding with their investigation.

According to Daw Mya Tway Mon, she and her husband purchased the plantation, but registered her husband’s elder brother as the plantation owner. Though both families worked together on the plantation for some time, there was increasing conflict over ownership of the plantation between the two brothers.

My husband and son don’t have any enemies in Hpa-an. He [the husband] frequently argues with his brother about [ownership of] the plantation. Twice, my husband’s brother has reported my husband to the police after having an argument,” said Daw Mya Tway Mon.

She also alleges that this was a targeted attack on her family due to ongoing conflict over ownership of the plantation, and that her brother-in-law organized the arbitrary arrest and detention of her husband and son, using connections his wife has with an armed group in the region.

Daw Mya Tway Mon suffers from arthritis and is unable to work, thus the loss of income due to the arbitrary arrest and detention of her husband and son has profound implications for her family’s financial security. She also takes care of their two other children, a 17-year-old son who is deaf and unable to speak, and a 4-year-old son. According to her neighbors, everyday life has become a struggle for Daw Mya Tway Mon.

Two weeks after they were arrested, I received a phone call from an unknown number…But I didn’t hear the voice clearly and when I asked, ‘who is this?’, they just hung up. When I re-dialed the number, the operator told me the number wasn’t available,” said Daw Mya Tway Mon.

Though the arbitrary arrest and detention of civilians by unknown armed groups is no longer as common as it once was, such incidents nonetheless threaten the safety, security, and well-being of villagers across Mon State and other areas of southeastern Burma.

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