Civilians Beaten by Burma Army Soldiers: Sources

By Nyein Nyein 25 May 2016

Two civilians have claimed they were beaten by Burma Army troops under the suspicion of being Kachin Independence Army (KIA) soldiers in Waingmaw Township, Kachin State.

Zaw Awng and Naw Seng, both 32-year-old men, say they were detained for three hours by four soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 381, under Brigade No. 3, on Tuesday afternoon in Namt Seng Yang village, which is now under the government army’s control.

Namt Seng Yang village, on the road linking Myitkyina to Bhamo, is a 45-minute motorcycle drive to Laiza, the location of the KIA’s headquarters.

Zaw Awng, who posted pictures of wounds on the back of his thighs on his Facebook page, said: “They held a gun to my temple and accused us, especially my friend, of being KIA soldiers.”

“Because I said no, they stepped on my head, wrapped a plastic bag around my head and beat me with green bamboo slat,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Naw Seng, who used to be a motorbike taxi driver, told The Irrawaddy that he was detained and, while topless, forced to wrap his arms around a pole in a decrepit hut.

“I was slapped twice on the cheeks and hit five times on my thigh,” he said. “We were freed after about three hours. The village head, who arrived before we were released, was able to confirm that we were not KIA soldiers because he knows us.”

The Ministry of Defense’s spokesperson could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.

The victims said they were working on nearby banana farms, and wanted to report the incident, but were unable to reach authorities because of travel restrictions.

Naw Seng said it is not easy to travel to Kachin State’s capital, Myitkyina, from Laiza and back anymore because both armies restrict civilian movements.

“I used to drive a motorbike taxi and transported people from Myitkyina to Laiza,” Naw Seng said. “But since they started putting up fences about two or three months ago, I had to go work on the banana plantations.”

Since the 17-year bilateral ceasefire agreement broke down between the KIA and the government in 2011, many civilians have been arrested on suspicion of being KIA soldiers and charged under the Unlawful Association Act. The KIA, which did not sign last year’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), is still on the unlawful association list.

Lamai Gum Ja, a member of the Peace-talk Creation Group (PCG), said such cases of civilians being questioned and beaten have been frequent since the war reignited nearly five years ago, especially in areas where both the KIA and the Burma Army are active.

“The public is still living in fear because we don’t know when we could be called in for questions or when fighting might occur,” he said.

Since 2011, PCG has served as a bridge between the KIA and its political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, and the Burma Army. But Lamai Gum Ja said it has recently become more difficult for the two sides to address sensitive issues, such as the detainment of civilians.