Kachin Armed Group Releases Detained Farmers

By Htun Htun & Lawi Weng 23 June 2016

RANGOON — Nearly 50 ethnic Palaung were released in Kutkai Township, Shan State after they were detained by members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) due to a land dispute, according to local sources.

Yan Maung Ba, one of the 48 detainees, told The Irrawaddy that members of the KIA had arrested the farmers due to a disagreement over land between the local ethnic Palaung—also known as Ta’ang—and Kachin communities.

“We were released at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesday,” said Yan Maung Ba. “We are corn farmers. They came to take us away at midnight [on Tuesday night].”

Yan Maung Ba said that for five years, he and his fellow Palaung have been growing corn on an area of around 1,000 acres of land—the rights to which have been disputed by the two main the Kachin and Palaung communities that reside in the area. After some local Kachin reportedly complained to the KIA, 48 Palaung farmers were arrested.

“They did not have any good reason. They simply took us away,” said Yan Maung Ba.

The 48 victims included 19 men and 29 women. Some of the farmers told The Irrawaddy that members of the KIA had released them after they were made to pay a fee.

“Each of us had to give 15,000 kyats (US$12.70) to the [KIA] and they told us to farm there only after the land disputes are settled. But we have no other place to grow our crops,” said Aung Puu, one of the detained farmers.

Yan Maung Ba added, “We have been told that [the KIA] will shoot us if we go back to the land again.”

The farmers said that around 30 armed KIA soldiers from Battalion No. 9 of Brigade No. 4 had carried out the detention.

Kutkai Township, located in northern Shan State, is home to ethnic Shan, Palaung and Kachin communities.