The wife and two children of a rebel official in Rakhine State have been granted asylum in Switzerland.
The family of Major General Tun Myat Naing of the Arakan Army had been living in Thailand as the separatist leader skirmished against the Myanmar military in Rakhine State. However, they were detained in Chiang Mai after applying for a visa extension, and spent three months in custody as Thai authorities weighed deporting them to Myanmar. According to a report by Irrawaddy News, UNHCR, a United Nations organization that supports refugees, negotiated on their behalf, convincing Thailand not to deport them in order to protect Tun Myat Naing’s children.
The family had reason to be wary of their fate, had they been deported. Tun Myat Naing’s sister Ma Yamin Myat and brother-in-law U Kyaw Naing were arrested last October as Kyaw Naing returned from Thailand. They are both being charged under the Counter-terrorism Law.
For years, the Arakan Army, a Buddhist separatist group, has waged a bitter civil war in Rakhine State and Chin State that has displaced more than 100,000 civilians. Last year, the group ramped up its hostage-taking tactics, and social media reports emerged blaming them for forced labor, sexual violence and executions in territories the group holds. The incidents marred the group’s image and led them to release high profile hostages, including NLD parliamentarian U Whei Tin.