Kachin civil society groups held a public gathering in Shwezet church in the Kachin State capital Myitkyina on Tuesday to show their support for two Kachin IDPs, Brang Yung and Lahpai Gam, who were arrested by Burma Army soldiers in mid-2012 and allegedly severely tortured.
Participants at the gathering, organized by the Committee of Brang Yung and Lahpai Gam Case (CBLC)—a group formed by concerned Kachin civil society organizations (CSOs)—prayed for the release of the two IDPs.
“The rally is meant to create awareness about the two innocent IDPs, who were arbitrarily arrested, imprisoned, tortured and sexually abused,” said Zai, a member of the committee.
The Kachin CSOs submitted a petition to President Thein Sein on Oct. 13 calling on the government to release the two men, investigate allegations of torture and to hold perpetrators to account. Zai, who is also a member of the Myitkyina-based Sha-it Social Development Foundation, said no response had yet been received.
Brang Yung and Lahpai Gam sought shelter at Shwezet IDP camp near Myitkyina after fighting broke out between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in June 2011. Originally from Kachin State’s Waingmaw Township, the two men, along with their families, lived in the IDP camp for around one year.
The two Kachin men were arrested by the Burma Army’s Infantry Battalion 37 in June 2012 while driving cattle outside the camp. They were allegedly severely tortured during two weeks in detention and forced to make false confessions about their links to the KIA.
In November 2013, the two men were sentenced to two years jail under the Unlawful Associations Act and the following month, their sentences were increased by five years. In June this year, Myitkyina District Court sentenced the pair to additional lengthy prison terms under articles 3 and 4 of Burma’s 1908 Explosive Substances Act.
According to the CBLC, Brang Yung is serving a 21-year sentence and Lahpai Gam a 20-year sentence.
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention separately considered the cases of Lahpai Gam and Brang Yung in November 2013 and April-May 2014 respectively. In both cases, the UN rights body found that their detention was arbitrary and called on the government to immediately release each of the men and provide adequate reparations.
In Kachin and northern Shan State, dozens of ordinary Kachin have been arrested and falsely accused of having links to the KIA—one of two ethnic armed groups that have not agreed to a ceasefire with the government since late 2011.