Palaung CSOs Allege Rights Abuses by Burma Army in N. Shan State

By Moe Myint 6 January 2016

RANGOON — The Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO) and Ta’ang Students and Youth Organization (TSYU) have claimed that the Burma Army arrested dozens of civilians in northern Shan State over the course of a single day last month, with 11 people “brutally tortured” in a military sweep of four Namkham Township villages.

The TWO and TSYU held a press conference on Tuesday in Rangoon, releasing a joint statement alleging that 81 people from the villages of Say Khin, Man Puu, Pan Yok and Man Pann were arrested by soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion No. 324 on Dec. 23.

The ethnic Palaung (also known as Ta’ang) civil society groups said government troops carried out their sweep of the villages with cooperation from the Pansay militia, a pro-government armed group allegedly involved in the illicit narcotics trade in Shan State.

The detained villages were released the following morning, according to the joint statement.

Mai Myat Aung, who said he was assaulted by more than 10 government troops on Dec. 23 in front of his home in Pan Yok village, went on to tell of how his wife and younger brother begged the soldiers to spare him the harsh physical treatment that was ultimately meted out.

“They asked me where I came from and I answered honestly, but even without exchanging any argumentative words, they knocked me out,” Mai Myat Aung said at Tuesday’s press conference.

Mai Nyi Puu, a Say Khin village resident who speaks little Burmese, also attended the press conference and through a translator recounted his experience at the hands of the Burma Army on Dec. 23, when he returned from a funeral at a nearby village to find soldiers posted at the entrance to Say Khin.

“Burma soldiers asked the children, ‘Is that a rebel village?’ [and said that] if it was true, they would burn the village to the ground,” said Mai Nyi Puu.

Lway Amm Khae, a preschool teacher in Say Khin village, recalled a similar encounter.

“They made threats to the children, that they would burn the whole village, slaughter everyone and eat the flesh of the Ta’ang,” she said, adding that some villagers’ property was looted by soldiers, who at one point forced her to hold a grenade.

Lway Poe Ngeal, secretary of the TWO, put a question to the Burmese government on Tuesday: “Is being born ethnic Palaung a sin?”

Aung Myo Min, executive director of Equality Myanmar who helped coordinate the press conference, told reporters that the villagers were targeted as suspected violators of Burma’s Unlawful Association Law, accusing them of supporting the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

TWO and TSYU representatives told The Irrawaddy at Tuesday’s press conference that they would submit a filing to the Myanmar Human Rights Commission by the end of January concerning the alleged human right violations in areas inhabited predominantly by ethnic Palaung, with the two groups still compiling a case list.

“At least 30 cases involving human rights violations in Ta’ang areas” occur each month, said Lway Poe Ngea, TWO’s secretary.

The Burma Army and TNLA have exchanged hostilities repeatedly over the last few years, the latter being one of a handful of ethnic armed organizations engaged in ongoing conflict with the government.