Myanmar Junta Detains KIO Officer and Community Leaders in Kachin

By The Irrawaddy 15 March 2023

Junta forces have detained nearly 40 people including a Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) officer in Kachin State’s Hpakant Township over the past week, according to local sources and the KIO.

The KIO is the Kachin Independence Army’s political wing.

Junta forces raided the Kachin literature and culture office in Hparpyin village in the south of Myanmar’s jade mining hub around 11 am on Saturday, and arrested community elders, business owners, residents and the KIO officer.

The regime personnel arrived in four private vehicles, making a surprise appearance in the village, said a Hpakant resident.

“Community elders and ethnic Kachin villagers were holding a meeting at the literature and culture office. Around 20 people including an administrative officer of the KIO were detained,” he said.

KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu confirmed to The Irrawaddy that a KIO officer and local people were arrested in Hparpyin. He declined however to reveal the rank of the detained KIO officer.

“The enemy [military regime] are making moves to take control of Hpakant. They have arrested [a KIO officer] because they don’t want to see KIO staff in Hpakant town,” said Col. Naw Bu.

KIA forces have been fighting regime troops across northern Myanmar.

On Sunday, a deputy officer from the junta’s immigration and population department in Hpakant was shot dead by unknown assailants at immigration staff quarters near a police station. Junta troops have responded by making a series of arrests.

On Monday, they arrested 10 people at a tea shop in Hpakant’s Hmaw Wan Ward. Eight more people including the owner were arrested at a barbershop in the ward on the same day.

At least 38 people have been detained since Saturday in Hpakant, according to sources.

Meanwhile, the KIA is conscripting young ethnic Kachin men in the township, said a Hpakant resident. The KIA has so far remained silent on its alleged conscription drive. However, KIA information officer Colonel Naw Bu said tensions are running high between the junta and the KIA in Hpakant.

“There have been sporadic clashes there. We are conducting attacks on them, and they are dropping bombs on us. Military tensions are escalating in the area,” he said.

A Hpakant resident said the junta’s arrests of locals in the town had caused panic.

“Hpakant is completely devoid of safety. We don’t go out after 7 pm now except for health emergencies. The military’s hilltop outpost is firing shells indiscriminately at villages whenever they hear rumors [of resistance activity]. So we are living in fear that artillery shells will hit our house, or that fighting will break out day or night,” she said.

Ko Jacob, director of Kachin Human Rights Watch, said more than 100 local residents remain in detention following the coup. The regime is violating international laws by arbitrarily arresting locals on various pretexts, he said.

Junta troops from the 33rd Light Infantry Division raided Sharaw Ka village in Hpakant Township on March 1 and detained over 130 residents. They were released two days later, according to Hpakant residents.