RANGOON — Three Kachin men from the village of Malun Banka near the Shan State border town of Muse have gone missing after reportedly being stopped by Burma Army troops on their way to work at a charcoal kiln on Sunday.
The three men—aged 18, 20 and 21, respectively—were going to their jobs when they were confronted by a military column about one mile from Malun Banka village, according to Marang Ladwe, who says he was accompanying the trio but managed to flee the scene.
“We encountered government army soldiers on our way to the charcoal kiln. Because they were pointing their guns at us and apparently wanted to arrest us, I ran back to my village. They fired at me and I was shot slightly in my leg. They shouted, ‘Freeze, don’t run!’ and the three stopped because they were afraid,” he said.
The families of the missing men have reported the case to the Muse police station.
Officer Nyi Man of the Muse police station confirmed that the families attempted to report the disappearances.
“They came to the police station as they thought their sons were detained here,” he told The Irrawaddy. “Because it is associated with the army, it is difficult to open the case and handle it. So, I transferred it to military security.”
Hearing gunshots near the village, residents of Malun Banka largely stayed indoors on Saturday, thinking that a skirmish between the Burma Army and ethnic armed rebels was afoot. That included the three men, according to Marang Ladwe, who added that they had decided to go to work the following day when no gunfire was heard.
Zakong Kaung Nan, the mother of one of the missing men, said: “We didn’t know that he went out [to the charcoal kiln]. He went there thinking that the fighting was over. We have asked for help from the village administrator and he said he is still investigating. I am really worried for my son.”
On Jan. 20, two Kachin volunteer teachers were found dead in their dormitory at a village outside Muse town. The women are widely believed to have been raped and murdered, though autopsy results are still pending, amid allegations of Burma Army involvement in the killings.
In neighboring Kachin State, the KIA detained a state transport minister and three police officers on Jan. 14, triggering a tense several days of clashes between the KIA and Burma Army troops that displaced more than 1,000 civilians. A series of explosions has also rocked the region in the days since. All four men detained by the KIA were eventually released.
The KIA has allied with other ethnic armed rebel groups in northern Shan and Kachin states since the collapse of a 17-year ceasefire with the government in 2011. In the three-and-a-half years since, tensions and violence in the region have flared recurrently, thwarting government efforts to reach a nationwide ceasefire agreement with Burma’s ethnic armed rebel groups.