File photo of workers on the Indian side of the Kaladan project at Lawngtlai in Mizoram.(HT PHOTO)
File photo of workers on the Indian side of the Kaladan project at Lawngtlai in Mizoram.(HT PHOTO)

Myanmar rebel group releases four abducted Indians, fifth dies in detention

Five Indians, all employed by companies working on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project (KMMTP) and five Myanmarese men were abducted Sunday evening when they were on their way from Paletwa (Chin state) to Kyauktaw (in Rakhine state) in two speed boats. They were released Monday morning.
Hindustan Times, Guwahati | By Sadiq Naqvi‪
PUBLISHED ON NOV 04, 2019 08:36 PM IST

The Arakan Army (AA), a rebel group active in Myanmar’s Chin and Rakhine state has released four Indian citizens working on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project (KMMTP) who were part of a group of 10 people it had abducted on Sunday, an Indian security official with direct knowledge of the incident said Monday on condition of anonymity.

A fifth Indian who was among those abducted died of a suspected heart attack as per initial information, the official said.

“The group comprising of five Indians, all employed by companies working on the KMMTP and five Myanmar nationals was abducted last evening when they were on their way from Paletwa (Chin state) to Kyauktaw (in Rakhine state) in two speed boats,” the official said. They were released Monday morning‬.

While this official said he was only aware of the information of the AA releasing four Indians and the death of one who has been identified as Vinoo Gopal (60) as per initial information, a Myanmar news portal reported that eight have been let off.

According to ‪Mizimma.com‬, Chin State MP U Hwai Tin, who was part of the group is still in custody while Indians and four others Myanmar nationals including two speed boat drivers and two translators have been let off.

The Arakan Army is fighting for a confederate status for Rakhine state and had earlier claimed it is not against the KMMTP. This is the first instance that Indian workers have been targeted.

Earlier, workers of a Myanmarese company involved in KMMTP were abducted in March and many of them were released only in August.

A member of the rebel outfit, however, said Indians were “not kidnapped.” “Our forces found five Indians and two translators when they stopped two speed boats for normal checking for security in Kaladan river. We have nothing to do with Indians. So we planned to release them since yesterday evening,” the AA member told HT from an undisclosed location.

A statement by the AA released on Monday claimed that the group was taken to land from the boats for investigations ‪at around 10 am on Sunday‬ and eight people and a dead body was released ‪at 5.45 am on Monday.

The AA in its statement said it was not against development projects which benefit the locals but those travelling in violence-hit Rakhine should inform the outfit.

It also said it is “deeply sorry for Mr. Vinoo Gopal’s death.” The statement claimed Gopal died during detention and blamed the death on his health issues including diabetes and heart problems.

According to the daily Irrawaddy, the abducted workers belonged to two Indian companies involved in road construction.

On completion, the KMMTP will help connect Mizoram with the Sittwe Port in Rakhine State of Myanmar.

The 109-km road connecting Paletwa to Zorinpui on the Indo-Myanmar border in Mizoram is key to completion of the project. On the Indian side, the road connecting Lawngtlai town to Zorinpui is 90% complete according to officials involved in the construction who spoke on condition of anonymity.

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