YANGON—The Lisu National Development Party (LNDP) has demanded the release of three Lisu villagers from Kachin State’s Hpakant Township allegedly arrested by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) a month ago.
The three are residents of Bangkok village in the township’s Wara Zut village tract.
Seven KIA soldiers arrested four Lisu men — Phaw Li Hsa, 45; Gwar Tee, 55; Phaw Yaw Si, 22; and Moli Dwet, 17 — on March 11 while the men were gathering herbs, tubers and bulbs in the jungle. They were taken to the KIA’s Maji Bum camp, but one of them managed to escape and returned to his home on March 30, according to the LNDP.
The Lisu are a sub-tribe of the Kachin.
The LNDP issued a statement on April 8 demanding the KIA and its political wing the Kachin Independence Organization immediately release the three remaining villagers. The party also requested help from the government, the military and relevant organizations to help secure their release.
U Shwe Min, the chairman of the LNDP, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, “The KIA soldiers on the ground do whatever they want to. If they want they can kill anyone. We are concerned about the rise of inter-ethnic conflicts. Therefore, we demand the release of the three.”
The escapee said the four men had been threatened, beaten and tortured for 10 days. They were struck with hard bamboo canes and rifle butts, and had bamboo sticks rolled over their shins, guns fired close to their ears and gun barrels placed in their mouths.
Phaw Li Hsa, who managed to escape the rebel camp, survived for eight days in the jungle but arrived home with serious wounds. He is now receiving treatment at the military hospital in Myitkyian, the LNDP said.
The Irrawaddy tried to contact KIA spokesman Colonel Naw Bu for comment but was unable to reach him. However, he told Radio Free Asia’s Burmese service on April 4 that the KIA did not arrest the Lisu villagers.
But U Shwe Min insisted that, “It is certain that the KIA arrested them. We have one person who escaped from their custody; we also have photo evidence and were able to confirm that it was at their camp in Maji Bum where these people were detained. But as [the three other men] have not been released, we are worried they may have been killed.”
The party said all four men are civilians.
The party sent letters asking for help from the President; State Counselor; Army chief; minister of home affairs; minister of defense; minister of security and border affairs; the Parliament speakers; the military’s No. 1 Bureau of Special Operations’ Lieutenant-General Tun Tun Naung; Northern Command chief Major General Tayza Kyaw; the Kachin State chief minister and the Kachin state minister of security and border affairs.
Moreover, the party sent letters to the KIO chairman and the KIA commander-in-chief, the Kachin Peacetalk Creation Group (PCG), Myanmar National Human Rights Commission and international embassies seeking help with the men’s release.
Lamai Gum Ja, the PCG spokesman, told The Irrawaddy that, “We have raised the issue with the KIO central [committee] and they are investigating what happened at the ground level, but we don’t know the details yet.”
In a statement, the LNDP condemned the KIA/KIO for its actions, which it said included torture, forced recruitment, extorting money, collecting money by threatening, showing hatred toward the Lisu ethnic minority and planting landmines.
“The amount of money extorted is a lot. They arrest people and release those who can pay. If not, these people are forced to receive training to become soldiers. Ethnic Lisu are always suppressed. This act is surely an attack against us. We want the KIO [senior] leaders to monitor the actions of its people on the ground,” it said.
In May 2017, more than 2,000 Lisu staged a protest in Myitkyina accusing the KIA of committing human rights violations against them including arrest, killing, extortion and rape.