Myanmar Military Detains 2 Unarmed RCSS Members at Public Event in Shan State

By Zin Lin Htet 8 January 2020

YANGON—The Myanmar military detained two members of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) who attended a public meeting in the village of Narpwe in Nansang Township in southern Shan State on Monday, according to Lieutenant-Colonel Sai Oo of the RCSS.

“Our members live in the village without wearing military uniforms. The military spotted them, and checked their phones. They detained them after they saw photos of them wearing military uniforms on their phones,” he told The Irrawaddy.

It is common for RCSS members to attend peace and drug awareness campaigns organized by local communities, he said, adding that it is unacceptable for the military to arrest them at a public meeting while unarmed.

“The military has not released them yet. They arrested them not because of a misunderstanding, but intentionally. Our members [should] have freedom of movement,” Lt-Col. Sai Oo said.

He said the RCSS would send a letter to the Myanmar military asking it to free its members.

Myanmar military spokesperson Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun said he could not confirm the arrests.

“I saw that report. But I haven’t heard anything about it and therefore still can’t confirm [the arrests],” he told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday.

The arrests came as General Yawd Serk, the RCSS chairman and leader of the Peace Process Steering Team of 10 signatories to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), visited Naypyitaw to attend the Joint Implementation Coordination Meeting (JICM) on Wednesday, which was also joined by the State Counselor and senior military leaders. Gen. Yawd Serk arrived in Naypyitaw on Monday.

The RCSS chairman also planned to meet with government and military leaders to hold discussions on peace and building a federal Union, according to its statement released on Sunday.

Sai Kyaw Nyunt, general secretary 1 of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, suggested that the detention of the RCSS members stemmed from the lack of a clear demarcation of territories between the Myanmar military and ethnic armed groups.

“There is no clear demarcation of boundaries with the NCA signatories or those who have signed bilateral [ceasefire agreements]. So, each side can accuse the other of intruding on its territory. This problem [detention] is the result of the lack of clear boundaries,” he said.

In October last year, the Myanmar military’s Central Eastern Command blocked an RCSS delegation led by Gen. Yawd Serk from traveling to Naypyitaw to attend an event marking the fourth anniversary of the NCA. The Myanmar military cited security concerns.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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