Rights Groups in Myanmar’s Shan State Demand Justice for Villagers

By Lawi Weng 9 April 2020

At least 18 villagers in northern Shan State have faced rights abuses within a month at the hands of Myanmar’s army, according to Ta’ang rights groups.

Rights abuses occurred in Mongmit, Mongton and Kutkai townships, according to the three rights groups. Their joint statement said one woman from Hel Htin village was arrested by Myanmar’s army on March 25. Then six others, including the Pan Tin village chief, were also arrested later that day when troops were reportedly searching for members of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) in the village.

Rights groups said they asked for the release of the seven villagers from the army barracks in Mongmit. They also demanded justice for a village chief in Mongton who was killed in a bomb blast.

No visitors were allowed, according to Lway Hlar Reang, secretary of the Ta’ang Students and Youth Union (TSYU).

“We went to meet their relatives in the village. They told us that the army did not let them see the villagers,” she said.

Even village administrators could not meet them, she added.

“We wanted them to release those seven villagers who have been detained. While a lot of people were worried about being infected by COVID-19, they detained seven people. We were worried about them and didn’t know anything about what had happened to them,” she said.

Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar’s military, told The Irrawaddy that a woman from Hel Htin was arrested after she took a photo of troops passing through the village.

“We arrested her for taking a photo. We interrogated her and, from her information, we arrested four members of the TNLA when we searched the village,” he said.

Troops found 30 guns and some grenades in the village, the spokesman said.

“We will take action against them after interrogation,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.

The rights groups said in Mongton Township two Moe Nue village administrators were forced to guide troops on March 29 and the village chief was killed by a bomb blast and a bullet wound.

Myanmar’s Infantry Battalion 251 reportedly paid 3 million kyats (US$2,100) in compensation to the village chief’s family, according to the rights groups.

“The [army] met the family and asked them not to try to seek prosecution for the death and gave compensation instead,” said Lway Hlar Reang.

“They kept the family quiet for 3 million kyats,” she added.

The rights groups asked the military to explain why the village chief was killed, adding that they would fight for justice.

The village secretary survived the incident but he did not dare to meet rights groups, she said.

“They should tell villagers how they will take action against those who killed the village chief,” said Lway Hlar Reang.

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