Hostages freed in Rakhine

The Arakan Army (AA) has freed hostages captured in two October raids. On 7th November, the group freed 25 hostages that had been taken from a passenger ferry. The next day it freed 18 hostages captured from a bus outside the city of Mrauk-U. Many of the captives remain in police custody pending official interviews.

Renewed conflict broke out between the Tatmadaw (Myanmar army) and AA early this year, and the group has lately introduced hostage-taking tactics. The AA claims it targeted the ferry boat and bus because they were transporting large numbers of Tatmadaw soldiers. The group released most of the passengers, mostly women and children, soon after the attack. The government, however, has accused the AA of using civilians as human shields. Many civilians were killed during a government rescue operation for the remaining hostages. Both sides blamed the other for the deaths.

The AA, however, has not freed all of its prisoners. The group is still holding National League for Democracy lawmaker U Hawi Tin, captured early this month. While the hostage-taking has only served to worsen the AA’s image within Myanmar, ongoing conflicts throughout Rakhine State are damaging the government’s reputation abroad. Skirmishes with the Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA) and the subsequent displacement of 750,000 Muslims, continue to harm the Myanmar economy by driving away tourists and foreign investors.

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