Myanmar Army Releases Ta’ang Civilians Forced to March on Frontlines

By Lawi Weng 27 September 2019

Two local ethnic Ta’ang were released Thursday in Mantong Township, Shan State, after three nights in detention following their arrest by the Myanmar army along with 12 other civilians on Monday, Sept. 23.

Soldiers from the Myanmar military arrested the group, including four girls and two women, while they were working in their gardens and forced them to walk to the frontlines of the conflict in the area. Around 5 p.m., after about eight hours, the army let 12 of the civilians return home but detained the other two.

The two detained civilians who were kept in custody arrived home Thursday at 5 p.m., according to Tar Aike Lin of Saing Leing Village, one of those released on Monday.

“I was working at my paddy farm when they came to arrest me. They took me with them,” he told The Irrawaddy.

According to Tar Aike Lin, four of the six females who were arrested were between the ages of 14 and 15 years old. The other two were their mothers. The army forced one civilian to walk at the front of the soldiers’ column formation while the other 13 were allowed to walk in the middle of the group.

“They just walked around in the jungle, they did not enter the village. We had to walk along with them,” he said.

Tar Aike Lin said that he did not dare to say anything to the soldiers as he was afraid of them, so he just walked as they told him.

The Ta’ang Women’s Organization reported that the soldiers belonged to the Myanmar army’s Light Infantry Battalion 421.

Lway Chee Sangar, a member of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, told The Irrawaddy that this was a human rights abuse but that it was not the first time the Myanmar military had done this.

“[Saing Leing Village] does not receive phone signals to communicate with other places, so they can’t tell anyone about most rights abuse cases,” she said.

Local residents have to climb up a nearby mountain to get cellphone coverage if they want to contact anyone.

The Myanmar army has had a reputation in the past for using civilians as a form of protection when they travel on the frontlines of ethnic conflicts.

Mantong is a township in the ethnic Ta’ang Self-Administered Zone, where fighting has often broken out between the Myanmar army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army.

The Irrawaddy reached out to Myanmar army spokesperson Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun for comment about the case in Mantong Township but he was not available for comment.