Sittwe: Over ten campaigners for 24-hour electricity in Arakan State have been detained in Sittwe by police since yesterday for interrogation about their activities for the campaign, said one activists who evaded detention.
Among the ten detained are both men and women, who were coordinating to carry out the electricity campaign in Sittwe, the capital of Arakan, on the occasion of Burmese National Day yesterday.
“A daughter and granddaughter, who is Ma Wa Wa Khaing, of prominent politician U San Shwe Oo (Kwe Baluu) are among those arrested. We do not know about other detainees or their current whereabouts since the arrest,” the source said.
Moreover, a female government teacher, Ma Khaing Khing, was also detained by police but later released after interrogation.
“Ma Khaing Khing was brought to No. 1 police station in the early morning yesterday, but the police released her around 1 pm. She was interrogated by police officers about her role in the campaign and other programs in the campaign,” said another colleague of Ma Khaing Khing.
A police team raided a hotel where some campaigners were staying and seized many campaign t-shirts, posters, and equipment.
U Aung Mrat Kyaw, Arakan State parliament legislator, confirmed detention of campaigners but stated that up to 20 individuals had been detained.
“As far as I know, over ten campaigners were detained, but the number is not more than 20. They were interrogated separately in different police stations in Sittwe. I heard there has been no harassment and they are being interrogated about their campaign. I hope they will be released very soon,” he said.
The campaign for 24-hour electricity in Arakan, generated by natural gas extracted from Arakan, is now spreading in the state after Union Minister for Energy U Than Htay said in Pyithu Hluttaw that natural gas obtained from the Shwe natural gas fields will be exported to China through the Burma – China natural gas pipeline, and can not be used in Arakan State per the bilateral agreement with China.
The campaign began in response to the Burmese government’s decision to sell Arakan’s natural gas to China, without any benefit for Arakan itself.
On 26 October, a group of youth in Rathidaung, 20 miles north of Sittwe, staged a protest by wearing anti-Shwe Gas t-shirts. Police forced them to take off the t-shirts and threatened them with punishment it they conducted such activities in the town again. The campaign is being carried out by many youths in Arakan in several towns across the state, including Kyauk Pru, Rambree, and Taungup.
Arakan State has the lowest amount of electricity supplied in all of Burma. Electricity is currently generated by expensive diesel and petrol engines and residents have to pay higher rates – 400 to 600 Kyat per unit of electricity – than anywhere else in Burma.
In central Burma, electricity is charged at a rate of 28 Kyat per unit for household use and 50 Kyat per unit for industrial use. The electricity being produced from the generators in Arakan is too low in voltage to run factories, but households are charged significantly more per unit than in central Burma. Because of this, most residents in the region are unable to access electricity at all.