Seven Shan Men Go Missing in Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 9 June 2016

Seven ethnic Shan men went missing on Sunday en route from Namkham Township to Lashio, the administrative capital of northern Shan State, according to a local police officer and a member of a Shan political party.

The disappearance follows the killing of three ethnic Palaung (known also as Ta’ang) the previous week in Namkham Township, which borders China. Local Palaung have since blamed the Restoration of Council of Shan State (RCSS), the ethnic Shan group whose armed wing, the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), has been fighting since December with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the armed wing of the Palaung State Liberation Front (PSLF).

If unresolved, the disappearance is likely to exacerbate tensions between Shan and Palaung communities in northern Shan State, which have been stoked in recent months by a conflict that has seen several thousand displaced, and resulted in a number of unexplained murders.

The police officer in Namkham, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The Irrawaddy over the phone that the families of the missing men had come to the police station to open a missing persons’ case.

A police investigation is now underway, the police officer said, although they had “not found anything yet.”

“They disappeared soon after leaving Namkham town, around Hpa Lane village, their families told me. It was on the highway to Lashio,” said the police officer.

On June 7 the families of the missing men visited the local branch office of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), currently the most prominent ethnic Shan party in the state. Sai Yee Puu of the SNLD said the families had requested help from the party.

“We asked [the families] how the men had disappeared. They told us that they were traveling by car to an area further south, near Lashio, where they intended to farm watermelons,” Sai Yee Puu said.

Sai Yee Puu said that his party had already approached the Ta’ang National Party (TNP), which represents the ethnic Palaung and occupies several parliamentary seats in northern Shan State, to solve the problem through “negotiation.”

“No one knows who did it, but they disappeared in a Palaung area. Therefore, we asked for help from the Palaung political party,” Sai Yee Puu added.

The driver of the car, from Mamgyi village, was among the seven who disappeared; the other six men were from Shan villages near the border town of Muse, according to Sai Yee Puu.

All were young men, but the SNLD in Namkham did not know their exact ages or their names.

On Thursday, a post on the Facebook page of the PSLF-TNLA News and Information Department claimed that SSA-S soldiers had abducted 30 ethnic Palaung from Bom Zom village in northern Shan State’s Mongton Township. The names of 23 of those missing had been identified.