Myanmar rebels free 3 abducted politicians in Rakhine
Yangon, Myanmar, Jan 1 (efe-epa).- Guerrillas of the Arakan Army on Friday released three politicians of the ruling party in Myanmar who were kidnapped during the election campaign in October, officials said.
“We are told that our candidates have been released but they have not called us yet. We understand that they are in a military compound,” said Myo Nyunt, the spokesperson for the National League for Democracy (NLD) led by Myanmar’s leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The NLD said the three – Min Aung, Ni Ni May Myint, and Chit Chit Chaw – were kidnapped on Oct.19 from the conflict-torn Rakhine state while campaigning for the Nov.8 polls.
According to the local media, an officer and two soldiers held hostage by the rebel groups were also released.
According to NLD sources, the release of the hostages was a prerequisite for authorities to consider removing the Arakan Army from the list of terrorist groups in the country, the Myanmar Times reported.
Over the past two years, Rakhine has witnessed a growing conflict between the armed forces and the Arakan Army, an ethnic-nationalist militant group fighting for the autonomy of the predominantly Buddhist majority state.
The clashes with the Arakan Army led to the cancellation of the general elections in northern Rakhine and some other areas in the center and south of the state.
More than a dozen rebel groups are fighting for autonomy in different parts of the country since its independence in 1948.
Myanmar military blamed the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) rebel group for the Rakhine attacks in 2017. The army launched a brutal campaign that led to a massive Rohingya exodus to Bangladesh.
Nearly 738,000 Rohingya refugees have been living in Bangladesh refugee camps after they escaped the wave of persecution and violence that the UN has described as a textbook example of ethnic cleansing and genocide.
The Rohingyas are a mainly Muslim minority. The Myanmar government has denied them citizenship since the 1990s.
They have faced long-standing official discrimination as they are considered illegal Bangladeshi immigrants, despite having lived in Myanmar for generations.
The 2017 military offensive, which has led to criminal cases against Myanmar in the International Court of Justice, almost eliminated the ARSA. EFE-EPA