BANGKOK – The Thai authorities have detained the wife and children of a top commander of Arakan Army, an insurgent group who are fighting for greater autonomy in neighboring Myanmar’s Rakhine State, Thai officials told Reuters on Friday.
Hnin Zar Phyu, 38, the wife of Major General 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, a city in northern Thailand that has long been sanctuary for dissidents from Myanmar, and charged with illegal entry.
Thai officials have confirmed that Hnin Zar Phyu and her children are being detained at an immigration office in Mae Sai district in Chiang Rai province, a major border crossing on the Thai-Myanmar border in northern Thailand.
“We are currently investigating her case and they are still in Thailand,” a Thai immigration official, who did not wish to be named because he is not authorized to speak to the media, told Reuters. “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 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, 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 organization.
A Rakhine activist said that he was deeply concerned by Hnin Zar Phyu arrest 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,” Nyi Nyi Lwin, the head of the Arakan Information Center said.
“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, Singapore authorities arrested and deport a group of Myanmar nationals with links to Arakan Army, saying their activities caused “security concerns”.
Spokesmen for the Myanmar government and military did not answer calls from Reuters seeking comment.