Chin Farmers Re-Arrested After Accusing Burma Army of Torture

By Yen Saning 26 September 2014

RANGOON — A group of ethnic Chin farmers who had accused a Burma Army unit of arbitrarily detaining and torturing them, were re-arrested last week and forced to sign a document stating that they would retract the allegations, according to sources in Chin State’s Palatwa Township.

At a press conference in Rangoon on Sept 18, Chin human rights groups and a farmer from Palatwa alleged that Light Infantry Unit 344 headed by Maj. Tin Htut Oo had detained six farmers from the area for nine days in August, during which they were interrogated and severely beaten.

The men had been detained after the soldiers found out that they had offered armed Chin National Front (CNF) fighters a meal during a harvest festival in the village of Kone Pyin.

Sein Aung, of the Palatwa Ceasefire Monitoring Group, told The Irrawaddy that on the day after the press conference, Sept 19, five farmers were summoned to the Light Infantry Unit 344 base. They were held for two days and forced to sign a statement under duress stating that the beatings never happened.

Sein Aung added that the farmers had fled from their village after they were released.

“They [the military] do this to ease the case against them. This is not acceptable to me,” he said, adding that his group would inform the authorities of the Border and Immigration Ministry about the case, which occurred in a remote village on the Burma-India border.

The Palatwa Ceasefire Monitoring Group comprises local community leaders and NGO representatives and is tasked with monitoring the implementation of the ceasefire between the CNF and the government. It follows troop movements and other conflict-related events in the area.

Sein Aung said the CNF carried some blame for the situation as they had violated the conditions of the ceasefire by wearing uniforms and bringing weapons into the village.

Maj. Hla Tun, a CNF trade liaison officer based in Palatwa, said he was not fully informed about the case, but he added, “It’s not right that they [soldiers] go and beat members of the public… We have informed our central office about this case—I don’t know how they will to take care of it.”

The Chin rights groups said last week that they would help the farmers file an official complaint against the Burma Army unit major in a letter to the Chin State chief minister

Sar Su, aretired Palatwa Township education officer assisting the farmers, said that a local village administrator and the sixth Chin farmer, who had returned from the Rangoon press conference earlier this week, were now preparing to file another complaint with the Burma Army, with the help of Chin NGOs.

She said the impoverished farmers were not only suffering from the threats by the Burma Army, but also “lost a chance to harvest their crops this year, which could yield 280 baskets of rice each.”

For decades, the Burma Army has been accused of carrying out rights abuses, such as torture, rape and extrajudicial killings, against the ethnic civilians in the country’s rugged periphery, where dozens of ethnic rebel groups have fought a long-running insurgency.