The rebel faction Arakan Army in Myanmar has released 52 villagers from the predominantly Christian Khumi community in the Western Chin state after they were detained for six months in a border camp.
Radio Free Asia reported the release last week, citing a local pastor and the Arakan Army. The Khumi villagers were abducted in February from their communities following a battle with Myanmar’s military troops.
Although the Khumi Affairs Consultative Council accused the Arakan Army of taking the villagers by force, the rebel group vehemently denied that accusation.
In April, a spokesperson for the rebel faction said the Arakan Army helped the villagers flee to safety after fighting in Chin’s Paletwa township. The spokesperson claimed that the Arakan Army did not take the villagers by force.
Fifty-four villagers were initially said to have been detained by the Arakan Army but two villagers were able to escape.
KACC chairman Kyaw Nyein said in April that the villagers who escaped said the rest of the villagers were being held at an Arakan Army outpost along the border of Myanmar, India, and Bangladesh.
According to Radio Free Asia, the Arakan Army released the Khumi villagers and sent them to community leaders in the Ohnthee Wa village. The released villagers are expected to stay at an internally displaced persons camp in Meezar.
“They said that all have been released,” Pastor Moses told Radio Free Asia.
The release of the villagers was praised by the U.S.-based persecution watchdog and charity International Christian Concern.
“For the Chin captives who were held against their will for months, this is definitely encouraging news that they could finally return home,” ICC Regional Manager Gina Goh said in a statement. “We rejoice with them and their loved ones. However, the AA should not have taken them in the first place. Civilians have the right to live without fear despite ongoing armed conflicts between the AA and Tatmadaw [Myanmar military].”
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SOURCE: Christian Post, Samuel Smith