A former Rohingya MP has been arrested in Myanmar over allegation of financing the insurgent group Arakan Rohingya Salvation Army (ARSA).
Aung Zaw Win, who was MP for Maungdaw in Rahkine for the Union Solidarity and Development party until 2015, was arrested at Yangon International Airport on February 28, reports The Guardian quoting a statement by Myanmar government.
The move to arrest Aung Zaw Win, also a major property tycoon, has been condemned as a further escalation of persecution of the Rohingya community in Myanmar.
Zaw Win has been accused of financing the ARSA insurgent group, according to the Myanmar government’s statement.
He remains in custody in Mingaladon Police Station near Yangon airport, but has not undergone any questioning yet, reports The Guardian.
The arrest of Zaw Win came as a surprise to many as he is known for his close ties to the Myanmar military.
He has been a contradictory figure among the Rohingyas as he was yet to come up with any political statement regarding the plight of the minority community in Myanmar.
Zaw Win’s involvement in politics has been assumed to be mainly for business purposes. He is one of the most prominent Rohingya businessmen in Myanmar, owning numerous construction companies and vast properties including hotels in Yangon and Naypyidaw.
The Myanmar government and military are sending a signal with Zaw Win’s arrest that they want to destroy the whole Rohingya community, not just those in Rakhine, Rohingya activist Nay San Lwin told The Guardian.
As the Maungdaw MP, Zaw Win was among those who tried to reinforce the idea that the Rohingyas are not native to Myanmar but immigrants from Bangladesh, as he pressured the Rohingya community to accept Bengali identity, reports The Guardian.
Expressing concern over Zaw Win’s arrest, Mark Farmaner, director of Burma Campaign UK, said this is just how the old military dictatorship acted.
Terming Zaw Win as a businessman who only cared about his business, Nay San Lwin said it was extremely unlikely that he was involved in funding ARSA as he was never an activist and would never engage in this kind of activity.
Referring to some suggestions that ARSA was in fact created by the Myanmar military to give them a legitimate reason to attack on the Rohingyas, Nay San Lwin said Zaw Win had close ties to the military and if he had financed ARSA it would only have been because of pressure from them.
Rohingyas have long distrusted Zaw Win and many believe that he was behind stirring up violence in 2012, after which he was allegedly rewarded with lands in Yangon and Naypyidaw, The Guardian reports quoting unnamed sources.
Thousands of Rohingyas have been killed and over 700,000 fled to neighbouring Bangladesh following a military-led crackdown in late August last year.
Yanghee Lee, the UN special rapporteur for human rights in Myanmar, recently said that the violence over the Rohingyas in Myanmar had “hallmarks of genocide”.