Thai Immigration authorities have detained the wife and children of a top commander of Arakan Army in Chiang Rai, Thailand. A leader of an insurgent group who are fighting for greater autonomy in neighboring Myanmar’s Rakhine State.
The wife of Major General Tun Myat Naing, 41, and their daughter 11, and 11-month-old son, were arrested on Wednesday in Chiang Mai. Northern Thailand has long been sanctuary for dissidents from Myanmar, and charged with illegal entry.
Thai officials confirmed that Ms. Hnin Zar Phyu and her children were being detained at an immigration office in Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai province. Mae Sai is major border town on the Thai-Myanmar border in Chiang Rai.
“We are currently investigating her case and they are still in Thailand,” a Thai immigration official said. He did not wish to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media, he told Reporters. “She is being charged with illegal entry because the Myanmar authorities have revoked her passport.”
Mae Sai is the district town of Mae Sai District in the far north of Chiang Rai Province, Thailand. Mae Sai is a major border crossing between Thailand and Myanmar. It also crosses the Mae Sai River to the town Tachileik in Myanmar. The town of Mae Sai and Tachileik are the bi-national conurbation shared between Thailand and Myanmar.
Rakhine state, also known as Arakan, came to global attention after some 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. The army recruits mostly from the Rakhine Buddhist majority. More than 35,000 Rakhine people have been displaced this year, according to the United Nations.
Myanmar has designated the Arakan army a terrorist organization
A Rakhine activist said that he was deeply concerned by Hnin Zar Phyu’s detention in Chiang Rai, Thailand.
“They should not arrest and deport her to Myanmar because she will be arrested, jailed, and persecuted in Myanmar,” Nyi Nyi Lwin, the head of the Arakan Information Center said.
“Arresting Tun Myat Naing’s wife is not very good. It will create more conflict between the Rakhine people and the Myanmar government army. It will never end, it will go on and on,” he said.
In July, Singapore authorities arrested and deport a group of Myanmar nationals with links to Arakan Army. Saying their activities caused “security concerns”.
Consequently the Myanmar government and military did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment.