A member of the Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) who was abducted by soldiers earlier this week and allegedly beaten in the jungle has been accused of communicating with an unlawful association.
Aike Kein, chairman of a village-level SNLD branch in Kengtung Township, was taken from his home by government soldiers on Monday at about 8 pm, said Sai Lone, head of the SNLD in eastern Shan State.
“Four or five soldiers from Kengtung-based infantry unit No. 245 detained him by force and kept him for three days,” Sai Lone told The Irrawaddy, adding that they transferred Aike Kein to the police early on Friday morning.
A police officer in Kengtung confirmed that the SNLD member was in police custody and had been charged with violating the Unlawful Association Act.
“The case is still under investigation,” the officer told The Irrawaddy, declining to elaborate.
Aike Kein has been accused of communicating with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), according to SNLD leader Sai Lone.
“We are confused. If the RCSS signed a ceasefire agreement and is participating in the peace process, is it still an illegal organization?” he said.
The Unlawful Association Act was used by the former military regime to punish any group or individual who was involved with insurgents. It outlaws any connection with, support for or participation with associations deemed illegal by the government.
Since peace talks began in 2011, most major ethnic armed groups have signed ceasefire deals with the government. As a result, few people have been prosecuted for communicating with unlawful associations.
However, in Kachin State, where fighting continues to rage between government troops and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Unlawful Association Act is still used regularly against local people.
One day after Aike Kein was detained, the RCSS’s liaison office in Kengtung was also raided by military intelligence officials.
Aike Kein says he was tortured by the soldiers who abducted him, according to Sai Lone, who met with him at the police station on Friday.
“The left side of his forehead was wounded, his face was dark from inflammation, and his chest ached because the soldiers kicked him. He was brought to the jungle on the first day of his abduction,” Sai Lone said.
“Aike Kein said the soldiers asked him to hand over a gun, which he did not have,” said Sai Lone. “He said he was not given meals for three days.”
Aike Kein was returned to his village at 11 am on Tuesday, Sai Lone said, citing reports of his neighbors in Namlin Meng Ean village. They said the soldiers searched his home and took a small amount of rice when they could not find anything else of value.
Local SNLD members are offering legal assistance and support for Aike Kein’s family. SNLD leaders in Yangon have also been urged to speak with the government’s peace negotiators about the arrest.