Forty-nine Kachin locals have been detained by the Burma Army since Tuesday, when they were accused of attending a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) militia training.
The individuals, members of the Rawang and Lisu sub-ethnic groups, come from Putao, in northern Kachin State. They were arrested at the Sein Lone military checkpoint, and are being held in Kachin State’s Bhamo prison and are facing two charges under the Unlawful Association Act for communicating with an “unlawful association” and possessing weapons with the group.
“Since their arrest, they have been put in the Bhamo central prison,” said U Aung Thein, Bhamo’s Lower House lawmaker from the ruling National League for Democracy, who is trying to get in contact with the group.
“I was told by the district administrator that all of the accused had admitted that they received weapons training at the KIA’s Mai Ja Yang camp, although they were told that they would be given training related to agriculture,” the lawmaker told The Irrawaddy on Friday.
“But I have not seen them in person yet,” he added, “As of now, charges are filed against them. They will have to appear before the court. We hope to meet them when they come for the hearing and learn what happened.”
As the case is related to the military, the lawmaker said that they have less power to directly intervene, due to the volatile situation in the area, which is a conflict zone. Quoting the Bhamo district administrator, U Aung Thein added that the accused are aged 20 to 40 years, and amongst them, four are women.
On Friday morning, the military-owned Myawaddy newspaper posted on their Facebook page that on Oct. 11 they “had arrested 49 people returning from getting militia training with the KIA,” as well as an additional eight people who were driving the trucks. All of the detainees will be transferred to the Moe Mauk police station, and security will be tightened in the area, they added.
After armed conflict between the government forces and the KIA renewed after the disintegration of a ceasefire in 2011, schools in the conflict zone were forced to shut down, leading youth to seek out new opportunities for vocational development. Local sources say there are hundreds of students pursuing their education in learning centers in Mai Ja Yang—a KIA stronghold on the China border—who are now in danger in the area, due to the reoccurrence of a recent military offensive against the KIA.
According to Dau Kha, a spokesperson from the advisory team of the Kachin Independence Organization—the political wing of the KIA—they provide trainings in education, health care, agriculture and livelihood development.
He added that the KIA does not provide military training at its headquarters.