July 25, 2013
On 31 July 2013, human rights defender and community leader Mr Kyaw Hla Aung will appear at the district court in Sittwe to hear charges against him. Kyaw Hla Aung is a human rights defender and community leader who has been working to promote and defend the rights of minority Rohingyas in Arakan state. The human rights defender is a respected community leader having served as a Sittwe district civil court clerk and a former staff member of Medicine Sans Frontiers.
On 15 July, Kyaw Hla Aung was arrested by police at his home in Thet Kae Pyin in Sittwe and has been arbitrarily detained without charge at the Police Station 1 in Sittwe since then.
The human rights defender is currently being held for questioning and does not have access to his family members and his lawyer. The arrest was reportedly related to the “population verification exercise” which was conducted on 26 April 2013.
On 26 April, the local government of Arakan state began the “verification exercise” among the Muslim internally displaced persons (IDPs) and population currently living in Sittwe to provide the authorities with accurate population data for short and long term development plans. It is reported that in the verification exercise the Rohingya population would have to be recorded as Bengali which angered many members in the community. During the protest by the Rohingya community, one police officer abused a Rohingya person and was subsequently beaten up by the crowd. The crowd gathered and was allegedly planning to burn down the house where the police officer had fled to. When Kyaw Hla Aung heard about this, he telephoned from his home the community leaders in the IDP camps not to use violence.
It is believed that the incident on 26 April 2103 has been used as a pretext to falsely accuse Kyaw Hla Aung of supporting a movement aiming to create a Rohingya state. From April to June 2013, Kywa Hla Aung was forced to go into hiding since police officials were roaming around the area where he was living. The human rights defender is known to be a strong advocate for the rights of the minority Rohingya population and had regularly meet with members of the diplomatic corps and international NGOs to brief them about the human rights situation facing the Rohingya population.
Front Line Defenders believes that the arrest and detention of Kyaw Hla Aung is directly related to his work in the defence of human rights, in particularly in support of Rohingya’s rights. Front Line Defenders is concerned with the continuing harassment against the human rights defender, including his arbitrary arrest from 11 June to 16 August 2012.