The Irrawaddy

Peace Center, Ethnic Organizations Call for Immediate Release of Shan Woman

Nang Mo Hom is taken away from her home in Namhkam Township, northern Shan State by TNLA members on Aug. 17, 2018.

YANGON — The Myanmar government’s National Reconciliation and Peace Center and ethnic armed organizations leaders called for the immediate release of Nang Mo Hom, a Shan woman who was abducted by a Ta’ang armed group last month, and objected to the group’s action against a civilian.

Nang Mo Hom, a mother of three children, was arrested at gunpoint by five Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) troops on Aug. 17. The TNLA said on Sept. 3 that it had put her on trial in its own court for allegedly obstructing troops as they performed their duties in July 2017.

Since her arrest, family members, Shan civil society members and the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party have been calling for her immediate release.

“Arresting an innocent civilian is an unlawful act that enormously impairs the government’s national reconciliation and peace process. Thus, we demand the immediate release of Nang Mo Hom and strongly object to any action which undermines the rule of law and affects the public’s lives,” read an NRPC statement released on Sept. 10.

The NRPC statement comes two weeks after the SNLD sending a letter to the NRPC, asking it to intervene.

Colonel Sai Ngern, the spokesman of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), said his organization stands with the family members of Nang Mo Hom and the Shan civil society groups in demanding her release. The RCSS leader said as his group has been in active armed conflict with the TNLA, it prefers not to comment further on the issue.

“We are very sorry to hear about her arrest because this happened while ethnic armed organizations are fighting for federalism,” said Mi Sue Pwint of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front.

It hurts efforts to mobilize the public, she said, adding that the TNLA’s actions seem like public intimidation.

Nang Mo Hom was used to set an example, said Mi Sue Pwint, a long-time human rights advocate.

There are many cases of abuse in conflict zones and the armed forces are being watched more closely, she said, adding that these instances are worrisome, as abuses by both Shan and Ta’ang armed forces threaten further unity among the two sides.

Observers are worried that this case may lead to worsening ethnic tensions.

“We should not have problems between the ethnic Shan and Ta’ang, as we have been coexisted and live harmoniously throughout history. This act of hatred against each other is the current problem,” said Harn Yawnghwe, an adviser to the Peace Process Steering Committee of ethnic armed organizations that are signatories to the nationwide ceasefire agreement.

He also worries about increased tension between the sides.

“She should be released not because she was detained by the TNLA but because any of the armed forces should not hurt civilians,” Harn Yawnghwe added.

Citing that the government released members of various ethnic armed organizations after they signed the nationwide ceasefire agreement for the sake of unity, Khun Myint Tun, a leader of the Pa-O Nationalities Liberation Organization said the TNLA could do the same.

“Whatever happened was in the past,” he said. “She should be freed so deeper problems can begin to be solved.”

He also suggested that the TNLA could find an independent group to help facilitate for her release.

“We have to be careful that such actions against individuals do not lead to societal conflict. I would urge an independent group to play a role in her release,” he added.

A TNLA spokesman told The Irrawaddy last week that they would announce the verdict of her trial when the time comes.