Human Rights Group Claims RCSS Violations Against Ta’ang

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 15 July 2019

YANGON—The Ta’ang Human Rights Network has claimed that the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) has committed human rights abuses against over 170 Ta’ang people.

The network held a press conference in Yangon on July 11, releasing a record of human rights abuses faced by Ta’ang people over the past four years.

A total of 62 abuses were recorded between 2015 and June 2019, in which 173 Ta’ang people sustained human rights violations by the RCSS, including the seizure of motorbikes, extortion, detention and torture, said Lwey Po Se of the Ta’ang Human Rights Network.

Those abuses were committed by members of the RCSS in Kyaukme, Namkhan, Namhsan, Muse and Namtu townships in Shan State.

The RCSS is based in Loi Tai Leng, along the Thai-Myanmar border in southern Shan State, and it is active in eastern, southern and northern parts of Shan State.

Lwey Po Se accused the RCSS of arresting Ta’ang civilians on the pretext of fighting for the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), then tortured them in custody before killing them and disposing of their bodies.

“The RCSS after signing the NCA [national ceasefire agreement] on October 15, 2015 started carrying out military operations, and has frequently engaged with the Tatmadaw (Myanmar military), the SSPP (Shan State Progress Party) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA),” she said. “Consequently, it has committed human rights abuses.”

Namtu locals that have experienced these abuses recounted their ordeals but requested anonymity for fear that they might be targeted by the RCSS when they are back in their native villages.

“I was detained [by the RCSS] as I returned [to my village] after selling bamboo-shoot [at the market]. [RCSS] accused me of being a Palaung [Ta’ang] soldier, and they released me after taking my money from selling bamboo-shoot and my motorbike,” said a 62-year-old Ta’ang man from Namtu Township.

The Ta’ang Human Rights Network, citing the NCA, called on the RCSS not to put the burden on civilians and to respect international laws of armed conflict.

RCSS spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Sai Oo has denied the allegations of the Ta’ang Human Rights Network but admitted to arresting some civilians during armed conflicts, insisting they were not abused and were later released.

“There have been many accusations by Palaung people and women’s organizations. We have never acted out of racial discrimination anywhere, including the frontline. We have our code of conduct. We don’t violate human rights,” he told The Irrawaddy.

Despite clashes between the two sides, the RCSS does not view Ta’ang people as an enemy, he said.

“We want to tell Palaung people that we don’t commit human rights abuses. We have lived together from time immemorial and we haven’t and we are not oppressing them on racial grounds. And we also won’t do it in the future,” he added.

The Irrawaddy made field trips to over 50 villages in Namtu Township in northern Shan State last year, where locals said that besides the RCSS, the TNLA and the SSPP also detained and tortured civilians on suspicion. In some cases, some locals who were shot and arrested died of excessive bleeding.

In Namtu Township, while the RCSS detained Ta’ang locals on suspicion that they are TNLA informants, the TNLA did the same to Shan locals, accusing them of being RCSS spies.

Eleven residents of Pan Kut Village went missing last year in the forest while fleeing from clashes. Pan Kut Villagers believe that they have been detained by the RCSS. The RCSS however denied the claim.

Clashes erupted in late 2015 in Kyaukme, Hsipaw, Namtu and Lashio townships in northern Shan State between the allied forces of the TNLA and the SSPP, and the RCSS, as the latter allegedly trespassed on the former’s territories.

At the village level in northern Shan State, administrators are asked by armed groups to collect money and rice and other foodstuffs from villagers. Administrators are also forced to send their villagers to carry loads for armed groups when they march from place to place.

In May, the Tatmadaw filed a lawsuit against a village administrator in Kyaukme Township in northern Shan State under Article 17 (1) of the Unlawful Associations Act for allegedly collecting funds for the RCSS and SSPP. The village administrator said that he had to do so for his personal safety.

Translated from the Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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