Bangladesh Arrests Myanmar Rebel Commander

Kamran Reza Chowdhury

2015-10-14
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151014-BD-arakan-620 Officers flank Renin Su, an alleged commander of the Myanmar separatist group Arakan Army, at a police station in Rangamati Hill district, Bangladesh, Oct. 14, 2015.
Courtesy of Rangamati police

A commander of the Arakan Army, a Myanmar rebel group, was arrested in Bangladesh on Wednesday for his alleged role in an Aug. 26 skirmish with Bangladeshi forces along the border between the two countries.

Renin Su, a Dutch citizen of Myanmar origin, was picked up in the Rangamati Hill district in southeastern Bangladesh, local police said.

“Acting on a tip off, we arrested fugitive Renin Su from the Rajasthali bazaar in Rangamati on Wednesday morning,” Md Shahidullah, additional superintendent of police (crime) in Rangamati, told BenarNews.

Renin had regularly stayed in the country’s Chittagong Hill Tract region since 1997, and has been charged under the Anti-Terrorism Act for the attack by Arakan Army forces on a Bangladeshi border patrol, which left one guard injured, officials said. He was also charged for staying illegally in Taidongpara, a hill town in the district near the frontier with western Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

According to the superintendent, during the past 18 years Renin made frequent visits to the region from the Netherlands, and he stayed at a house in Rajasthali.

“He has been a leader of the separatist group Arakan Army. We have recovered his Dutch passport, some Indian currency and papers from his possession,” Shahidullah said.

Bangladesh’s boundaries with restive states in northeastern India and Myanmar are notoriously porous because rebel groups from those areas have often crossed them in search of sanctuary on Bangladeshi soil. India, in particular, has long complained to Bangladesh about stopping northeastern rebels from criss-crossing the border.

Fighting over horses

Renin’s arrest follows the Aug. 27-28 arrests of three other suspected members of the Arakan Army, Shahidullah said. They were identified as Ong U Rakhine, an aide to Renin, and Mong Chu Aung Marma and Chui Aung Marma, the two caretakers of the house in Taidongpara.

Arakan Army uniforms were also discovered in the home, according to Shahidullah.

The Arakan Army is fighting Myanmar government forces to carve out a separate state in Rakhine state. Established in April 2009, its mission, among other goals, is to fight for the self-determination of “the people of Arakan” and safeguard their national identity and cultural heritage, according to its official website.

“The Arakan Army is basically a rogue element. They want a homeland comprising the Arakan state of Burma and some parts of Chittagong (Bangladesh). They cannot achieve success because both Burma and Bangladesh are very tough on them,” Ashfaqur Rahman, a former Bangladeshi career diplomat and Southeast Asia expert, told BenarNews.

The first three arrests came in the wake of the skirmish between Arakan Army rebels and members of a Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) unit in Thanchi Upazila.

Arakan Army officials later said that the border guards had provoked the skirmish by stealing 10 horses that belonged to the rebel group.

“We were using the horses to carry food and medical supplies. We asked them to return the animals but they refused, and fighting started in the Barha Madok area of Thanchi,” The Myanmar Times quoted Arakan Army Lt. Col. Nyo Tun Aung as saying.

“We have already explained to the Bangladeshi government that the Arakan Army is not the enemy…,” he said, according to an Aug. 28 report in The Irrawaddy. “We are trying to send a letter to the Bangladesh Prime Minister and we would like to say sorry for the conflict and that we would like to prevent this happening again in the future.”

Blending in

Dev Datta Bikash Tonchongya, a Rajasthali resident, told BenarNews that Renin came there as a political refugee in 1996-97, when Myanmar’s army started cracking down on separatists in Rakhine state.

He rented a house in Taidongpara and mixed in with the local population, Tonchongya said, adding that Arakan Army members visited Renin at the house.

“He (Renin) used to operate a medicine shop in Rajasthali. He married a local woman and lived in the Netherlands,” he said.

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