YANGON — Myanmar Army soldiers reportedly raided a house in Kachin State’s Hpakant on Tuesday and detained three men they claimed were insurgents extorting money for the Arakan Army.
The raid happened at a house in the village of Ah Hmike Pon Gone in Hpakant around 10 a.m. on Tuesday.
The village was formerly a dumpsite for mining waste but later prospectors came and resided there. About 1,000 prospectors from Rakhine State currently live there.
“People in plain clothes arrived around 10 a.m. in three cars and shot at the house. And they also dragged a few people into the cars. A few Arakanese people were abducted. I don’t know if they were dead or alive. For the time being, the house has been blockaded by soldiers,” said an Arakanese eyewitness who did not want to be named.
“Only Arakanese people live here. We are quite shocked by the shooting. People are in a state of panic. They do nothing wrong and only search for stones. They are worried that they will also be shot,” he added.
Other prospectors living in the ward also said on the condition of anonymity that they did not know the reason behind Tuesday’s shooting, that the shooters were in plain clothes, and that a complaint had not been filed with the police because the abducted Arakanese youth were single and without family members in the area.
According to the local ward administrators and community elders, there are more than 200,000 prospectors in Hpakant from across the country.
When asked about the incident by The Irrawaddy, the Hpakant Township police force said to ask the Myanmar Army, also known as the Tatmadaw.
In a statement, the Office of the Commander-in-Chief of Defense Services said that security forces searched the mines in response to news that extortion money was being collected from prospectors. Near a pile of waste close to the ward of Maw Wun, insurgents shot four times with small arms. The Tatmadaw returned fire. Four fled and three were arrested, according to the statement.
The Tatmadaw, in its statement, referred to them as Arakan Army (AA) insurgents.
The statement said that the three detainees are San Shwe Tha from Pauktaw Township, and Than Naing and Win Soe from Minbya Township, adding that the three were responsible for collecting extortion money that they handed to their group leader Hla Thein.
Tatmadaw troops are after four men including Hla Thein who fled, and will increase security to prevent insurgents from collecting extortion money in Hpakant, its statement said.
“It is an accusation,” said press officer Khine Thu Kha of the AA, adding that the three are not AA members.
“Hpakant is not a place under the control of the AA, but under the Myanmar Army. They treat all Arakanese as AA members, and [the shooting and abduction] is the bullying of Arakanese youth who earn an honest livelihood.”
“Shooting at a house without any warrant is not what a government is supposed to do. It is an act of scoundrels. To put it in other words, it is a war crime against citizens,” said Khine Thu Kha.
Dashi La Seng, a Kachin State lawmaker representing Hpakant Township, said that he does not know details about the shooting.
According to the Constitution, Hpakant is under the direct control of the Union government while the Myanmar Army provides security for the town. There are nine battalions in Hpakant and the Tatmadaw is solely responsible for security of the area, the lawmaker said.
Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.