(Reuters) – Insurgents from western Myanmar on Friday released three ruling party politicians who had been kidnapped from conflict-torn Rakhine state, a spokesman for the insurgent group said, calling it a goodwill gesture to build trust with the government.
The three – two women and a man – were abducted by the banned Arakan Army in mid-October while campaigning in Rakhine as candidates before a Nov. 8 election. The candidates were held for more than two months.
“This is a goodwill gesture … and we hope Myanmar army and Myanmar government will make similar goodwill gestures too,” said Arakan Army spokesman Khine Thu Kha told Reuters in an audio recording sent by text message.
A spokesman for Aung San Suu Kyi’s ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) confirmed the candidates had been transferred to an army camp near Paletwa in Chin state.
“We haven’t met with the candidates yet, so we do not have any more information right now,” spokesman Myo Nyunt Myo Nyunt told Reuters by phone.
Rakhine state has been roiled for more than a year by conflict between government troops and insurgents from the Arakan Army fighting for greater autonomy for the region.
The fighting is separate from violence that has led to the flight of hundreds of thousands of Muslim Rohingya, also from Rakhine state.
The NLD scored another commanding win in the November parliamentary election.
In Rakhine, however, the party lost most of the seats it took in 2015, a result some analysts said highlighted the deepening sense of grievance many there harbour against a central government dominated by the ethnic Bamar majority.
About two-thirds of the state’s population were unable to vote after the election commission shut some polling stations, citing insecurity because of fighting between government troops and the Arakan Army insurgent group.
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