Four ethnic Ta’ang youths detained by the Myanmar military over two weeks ago in Kutkai Township, in northern Shan State, are still in custody, local civil society organizations say.
The Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO) and the Ta’ang Literature and Culture Committee (TLCC) in Kutkai told The Irrawaddy that ten local youths were detained by Infantry Battalion No. 45 on June 19 on their way to a wedding, then sent to Kutkai Base Tactical Operation Command.
The TLCC and other civil society groups met with the Tatmadaw on June 23 and told them the detained youths were civilians, not members of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—the armed wing of the political organization the Palaung State Liberation Front.
The military released six of the 10 detainees, handing them over to community leaders, but refused to release the remaining four, who they claim have links to the TNLA.
“We asked them what they need to prove those four are normal civilians. Even their parents told them to punish the parents too if it’s found that those four are in the TNLA, but they did not accept it,” said Mai Aik Moon, TLCC chairman.
Among the detainees are two 17-year-olds that had just come out of the monkhood as novices, according to Mai Aik Moon.
According to the TWO, the youths were driving with the bride on their motorbikes, bringing her to the groom, when they were detained.
At the June 23 meeting, the military told community leaders they had informed their North Eastern Command in Lashio about the four in detention and could not release them.
“They told us that we could see the four when they handed them to the police, and we can tell the police then that they are civilians,” said Mai Aik Moon.
Both the TLCC and the TWO have asked the military for the release of the four that remain in detention.
Despite several attempts, The Irrawaddy was unable to reach a military spokesperson for comment.
Fighting has been ongoing nearly every day since mid-June in northern Shan State between the Myanmar military and the TNLA, according to the TNLA, despite a unilateral ceasefire the military recently extended.
The TNLA said that fighting broke out in Kutkai, Namtu, Kyaukme and Mongton townships nearly twenty times last month.
Clashes occurred four times in the first week of July, according to the TNLA, the latest in Kutkai on July 6.
The military and the TNLA have held peace talks several times in Muse and in China.
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