Bangladeshi police have arrested the brother of a former lawmaker from the ruling Amawi League on charges of financing and supplying firearms to terrorist groups in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, officials said Wednesday.
Members of the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) arrested 67-year-old U Shit Maung, a prominent Buddhist chairman of the Rakhaing Development Foundation, as he was about to board a flight for Myanmar at Dhaka’s international airport last week, police said.
“We have arrested him based on intelligence report that he has connections with Arakani terrorist groups,” Nur Azam Mia, officer-in-charge of the Dhaka Airport Police, told BenarNews on Wednesday. Mia did not specify the terror groups.
A court has approved a three-day remand that allows police to keep Maung in custody while authorities investigate the allegations against him, Mia said.
“He has been arrested under anti-terrorism charges,” Mia said, adding that investigators believe Maung had financed and supplied firearms to Rakhine militants.
“There were some pictures on his laptop showing Maung and his wife holding firearms,” Mia said.
Maung’s sister, Ayethein Rakhaing, denied the allegations against her brother, whose wife lives in Myanmar.
“He works for both the Muslims and Buddhists. He works there (Rakhine) for peace,” Rakhaing, a former lawmaker from the ruling Awami League, told AFP.
His wife, Mra Raza Linn, was a prominent rebel leader who became a peace activist in Myanmar, a member of Maung’s family also told the news service.
Linn heads a women’s group in Rakhine and is a senior member of the Arakan Liberation Party (ALP), a Rakhine political party, the relative said.
ALP, which was founded on April 9, 1967, is headquartered on the Indian border and operates in the Myanmar states of Rakhine and Karen, according to the state-backed Myanmar Peace Monitor. It said ALP was founded with its armed wing Arakan Liberation Army, which signed a ceasefire agreement with the Myanmar government on April 5, 2012.
ALP has been anti-Rohingya in recent years, AFP quoted a Bangladesh security official as saying Wednesday.
Rakhine state, on the western coast of Myanmar, is home to Rohingya Muslims, a stateless minority who are regarded by Myanmar’s Buddhist majority as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
A military-led crackdown has caused more than 600,000 mostly Rohingya civilians to flee into neighboring southeastern Bangladesh after a Rohingya militant group, the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA), launched a series of coordinated attacks against Myanmar’s security forces on Aug. 25.
Bangladesh, where some 400,000 Rohingya refugees had fled from earlier waves of violence in Rakhine over the past three decades, has bolstered its security at Buddhist temples near the border to preempt possible reprisal attacks by Rohingya.
This week, Bangladeshi home ministry officials held high-level talks with Myanmar officials in Naypyidaw aimed at containing the unprecedented exodus of Rohingya into Bangladesh.
On Tuesday, the two sides issued a joint statement in which Myanmar said it was committed to stopping the outflow of refugees immediately, and in which Bangladesh assured that it would never allow “any armed group and terrorists to use her territory against her neighbors” and would “continue to cooperate with Myanmar against insurgents, militants and terrorists.”
And during a meeting on Wednesday with Myanmar’s de facto leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, Bangladesh Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal warned that refugees could become radicalized.
“Our Honorable Minister has informed her [Aung San Suu Kyi], we will not tolerate terrorism in any form or manifestation. But unless they are not repatriated expeditiously, some of them may get involved into terrorism or militancy,” Sharif Mahmud Apu, a spokesman for the home ministry who accompanied Khan on the trip, told BenarNews by phone from Myanmar.