LASHIO, Shan State — Special Branch police in Lashio, Shan State, have released 13 people and continue to detain four following arrests at a guesthouse by Burmese authorities on Saturday.
Aung Myat Moe, a police chief in Lashio, told The Irrawaddy on Monday that those still detained had ties to an ethnic armed group.
“Those four people admitted that they joined the military training from the Palaung,” he said, a reference to the ethnic Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is engaged in a joint offensive against the Burma Army in northern Shan State, alongside the Kachin Independence Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army. Together the groups form a coalition called the Northern Alliance.
“They even told us that they were recruited. Special Branch police are investigating them,” he added.
If the investigation proves the allegations to be true, Aung Myat Moe said the authorities will take action against them.
The initial release of eleven people—five men and six women—took place once community leaders corroborated their story of having traveled to Lashio from Namhsan Township for medical treatment.
De De Poe Jaing, joint secretary of the Ta’ang Women’s Organization, told The Irrawaddy that she and other community leaders went to the police station on Sunday and asked police for permission to meet those still in detention.
“We asked them to let us meet them, but the police told us that the Special Branch police have taken them for an investigation,” she said.
“The Special Branch police could torture them and force them to admit to crimes. Therefore, we are asking to be able to meet those detainees. They should be able to meet us and meet with lawyers,” De De Poe Jaing explained.
Burmese authorities in Lashio have tightened security in the town following attacks in northern Shan State by the Northern Alliance.
The European Union released a statement on the clashes in northern Burma on Friday, expressing concern for restricted aid access to conflict-affected areas and communities.
“Continued fighting undermines trust and confidence in the peace process,” the statement read.