Monday, July 27, 2009

Three Burmese Defectors Missing After Arrest in Bangladesh

Dhaka (Narinjara): Three Burmese soldiers that defected from the army have been missing since they were arrested by Bangladesh Rifles in the border area of southern Chittagong Hill Tract on 20 February, 2009, said a relative of one.

The three were identified as Maung Maung Than, Soe Thwe, and Than Htay Haing, from Light Infantry Battalion 538 based in Rathidaung, 20 miles north of Sittwe.

The relative said that he came to Bangladesh last week to inquire about them but received information that they were sent back to Burma in April 2009 by Bangladesh authorities along with other Burmese prisoners.

The soldiers were arrested by Bangladesh Rifles at Headman Maung Shwe Sein's village in southern Bandarban in February while they were looking for shelter in the area.

According to a local source, the three defected from the Burmese army after some of their ammunition magazines went missing during a trip with their column to inspect the border pillars.

The Burmese army severely punishes soldiers that lose ammunition or military equipment, so the three soldiers fled from their column to Bangladesh out of fear of punishment.

After their arrest, the Bangladesh authorities reportedly brought them to Dhaka for interrogation.

A Burmese refugee staying in Cox's Bazar said the three soldiers were reportedly handed over to Burma by Bangladesh authorities at the Maungdaw border point along with other Burmese prisoners during an arranged repatriation in April 2009.

He added that the Burmese military authority has never disclosed information in such cases. The military may have sentenced them to long prison terms or executed them without providing any information to their relatives.

The three soldiers are Arakanese nationals from Shwe Lon Din Village in Rathidaung Township.

The relative said, "We heard they were fleeing to Bangladesh from the Burmese army. Because of that I came to the border town of Teknaf to inquire about their situation but now they are not in Bangladesh."

The Burmese army has no procedure for relatives to inquire about soldiers if they defect from the Burmese army.

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