In Person

‘I Would Not Exchange My Life For That Amount of Money’: Nang Mo Hom

By Chit Min Tun 22 October 2018

Nang Mo Hom was arrested at gunpoint by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army at her home in Namkham Township, Muse, northern Shan State on Aug. 17 and released on Oct. 15. 

The TNLA accused her of allegedly informing on its soldiers for extorting money from local businesses in northern Shan State. One of the fighters was later shot dead by the Tatmadaw and the other was arrested.

The TNLA sentenced Nang Mo Home to three years imprisonment in its own court on Oct. 5. During her arrest and detention, thousands of locals, civil society organizations and Shan political parties demanded her release and urged the government to intervene in the case.

In a statement on Monday signed by the TNLA chairman, the group said it agreed to release Nang Mo Hom at the request of the Shan State Progressive Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) for the sake of maintaining good relations between the Shan and Ta’ang communities. It said negotiations were mediated by the Federal Political Negotiation and Consultative Committee, an alliance of seven ethnic armed groups that both are members of.

Nang Mo Hom is now home. Shortly after her return from detention last week, The Irrawaddy’s senior reporter Chit Min Tun spoke with her.

First of all, can you tell us about the day that the TNLA arrested you?

They came to arrest me at my home and said their leader wanted to talk to me. They pointed a gun at me and took me away. I was taken in a vehicle into the jungle but I don’t know where we went exactly.

How did they treat you? 

There was no torture or abuse. They treated me well and told me to take care of my health and that they wouldn’t do anything to me. I tried to stay healthy because I believed that I would be let go one day. They didn’t keep me in a cell; it was more like house arrest.

The TNLA accused you of informing on two of its officers who were collecting money. Did you inform on them?

They asked me that question and I told them that it was not true. I would not exchange that amount of money for my life. And I did not do it. I don’t know about the fighting between the Tatmadaw and the TNLA troops. I gave the TNLA officers 1.1 million kyats upon their request and they gave me a receipt. That’s all.

How did you feel while you were detained? Did you think that you would be released?

I completely believed that I would be released because I gave them the money that they asked for. I thought when they discovered the truth, that I did not inform on them, that I would be released. I had faith in that.

What do you want to say to those who pushed for or negotiated your release?

I deeply thank the public, town elders and leaders who helped to win my release. They showed sympathy for me, as I am a mother.

What were you worried about and how did you manage while you were detained?

I never experienced anything like this, so I was scared. But they never harmed me and I was not too worried because they told me that I would only be detained for a short time.

What would your advice be to others in conflict zones to avoid similar arrests?

I had given them money and had not expected this to happen. I don’t want others to have to go through this. The incident happened after they left my home. So it was a misunderstanding that led to this situation but it is not good.

How did you feel about your children, as your youngest one is just six years old? 

I am never apart from my youngest son and my concerns for them all were unspeakable. The youngest is just a grade one student. My eldest son is in grade ten, which is a very important time in his life, so I was incredibly worried about them all.

Would you like to add anything? 

I would like to thank each and every person who demanded my release and helped me to be able to return home.