An Indian man taken hostage by an ethnic rebel group in Myanmar has died, PTI reported on Monday. He was identified as 60-year-old construction advisor Vinoo Gopal by a local media report.
The Arakan Army had abducted 10 people – five Indians, two translators, two boatmen, and a Myanmarese legislator – on Sunday, when they were on their way from the town of Paletwa in Chin state to the town of Kyauktaw in Rakhine state in two speed boats, Hindustan Times reported. Most of the people are associated with the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project.
On Monday morning, the Arakan Army released eight people – four Indians, the translators and boat drivers – along with Gopal’s body, The Irrawaddy reported. The four Indians were identified as Vijay Kumar Singh, Nangshanbok Suiam, Rakesh Sharma and Ajay Kothiyal. “They were released at 6 am [5 am Indian Standard Time] on Monday, but Chin State Upper House lawmaker U Whei Tin [of the National League for Democracy] is still in their custody,” the Chin state’s Minister of Municipal Affairs, Electricity and Industry U Soe Htet told the newspaper. Gopal’s body has been taken to Kyauktaw General Hospital in Rakhine.
The group of 10 was supposed to arrive at Kyauktaw township jetty at 10 am (9 am IST) on Sunday. When they did not arrive by 3 pm local time, the driver waiting to pick them up and take them to the port of Sittwe contacted the firm in Paletwa. The authorities then realised that the group was missing. U Whei Tin was on his way back to attend a session of Union Parliament, which resumed on Monday in Naypyitaw.
Arakan Army spokesperson Khaing Thukha told The Irrawaddy that U Whei Tin would remain in detention “for security reasons”. Thukha claimed he did not know Indians were present on the boat.
The Arakan Army also apologised for Gopal’s death. “United League of Arakan/Arakan Army is deeply sorry for Mr Vinoo Gopal’s death,” the statement read. “Mr Vinoo Gopal, the construction advisor, unexpectedly died during detention.” The outfit blamed Gopal’s health problems, including diabetes, obesity and heart problems, for his death. An unidentified Indian security official told Hindustan Times that Gopal died of a heart attack.
The Arakan Army is fighting for a confederate status for Rakhine state. The insurgent group had earlier claimed that it was not against the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transport Project. The project aims to connect Kolkata with Sittwe.
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