Vinoo Gopal, 60, was among 10 people, including four Indians and U Whei Tin - a lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, abducted on Sunday. (Photo Credit: Representative image)
An Indian worker has died in Myanmar after being taken hostage with several other compatriots and a Myanmarese lawmaker by an ethnic rebel group in the country's restive Rakhine province, media reports said on Monday.
Vinoo Gopal, 60, was among 10 people, including four Indians and U Whei Tin - a lawmaker from Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy, abducted on Sunday by the Arakan Army from two boats while travelling from Paletwa in the Chin state to Kyauktaw in Rakhine, The Irrawaddy newspaper reported.
The Indian workers were part of the ongoing construction on the Kaladan Multi-Modal Transit Transportation Project.
The incident about the death of the Indian worker came into limelight when the Arakan Army released eight people, including four Indians, two translators and two boat drivers, along with Gopal's body at the Kyauktaw Police Station on Monday morning, the report said.
Two of the Indian survivors are employees of the Engineering Projects of India Ltd, while the three other Indians, including Gopal, were from the RPP Infra Projects, the paper reported.
The incident came into limelight a day after Prime Minister Narendra Modi held a "constructive" meeting with Suu Kyi in Bangkok on the sidelines of the summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations(ASEAN).
The two leaders agreed that a stable and peaceful border was an important anchor for the continued expansion of the bilateral partnership.
Myanmar is one of India's strategic neighbours and shares a 1,640-km-long border with a number of northeastern states including militancy-hit Nagaland and Manipur.
The Arakan Army is a Rakhine based insurgent group founded as the armed wing of the United League of Arakan (ULA). It has been fighting for almost a decade for greater autonomy of ethnic Rakhine Buddhists.
This is the first time Arakan Army has captured foreign workers in the resource-rich area, which hosts a series of infrastructure projects linking India and Myanmar.
The rebels confirmed the Indian worker's death as the group were marched up a hill.
"Unfortunately he suddenly died from exhaustion... we did not do anything to him," Arakan Army spokesman Khaing Thukha was quoted as saying by AFP news agency.
"We did not target the Indians but rather the MP," he said.
Thukha said that they were not aware of the Indians on the boat.
"We keep detaining U Whei Tin as we still need to investigate him for security reasons...The Arakan Army did not intend to detain Indian civilians. Our troops did not know in advance that the Indian citizens were on the boats," he told the paper.
The rebel group apologised for the death of Gopal.
The project with which Gopal and the four other Indians are attached is a joint project of India and Myanmar. The project, which will connect SittwePort in Myanmar to the India-Myanmar border, is expected to contribute to the economic development of the North-Eastern States of India, by opening up the sea route for the products.
(With PTI inputs)