Family members of two missing ethnic Ta’ang males and community leaders from their township say the two have been killed by the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS).
A father and son who lived in Ho Nam Village were traveling by motorbike from Namsan Township to Lashio when they were arrested by RCSS members on June 7, sources say.
U Pho Ohn, the 42-year-old father, and Mai Kyaw Nyein, his 17-year-old son, had planned to visit a family member that was studying in Lashio.
They have been missing for over a month.
“After they [the RCSS] arrested them, they killed them,” Mai Kham Hlaing, a community leader from Ho Nam Village, told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday. He said the two were civilians and not affiliated with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA). He said he could not understand why they killed two civilians.
An RCSS spokesperson denies that the armed group killed the two, however.
“Sometimes their accusations are groundless. Our troops would not kill someone for no reason,” Colonel Sai Oo, an RCSS spokesperson based in the Shan State capital of Taunggyi, said.
Community leaders, including the victims’ relatives, had tried investigating the disappearance but avoided searching in an area they had been told the bodies were buried as it is under RCSS control and highly unsafe.
The father and son were arrested in Mann San Village, at a border area between Namsan and Namtu townships, but were allegedly killed at Pan Zao Village. A village authority there told community leaders that the bodies had been buried just outside of the village, they say.
“A village authority from Pan Zao told us that the RCSS asked the village authority to let villagers bury the two dead bodies after killing them. He told me that his villagers buried the two dead bodies,” Mai Kham Hlaing said.
The victims’ family has not yet informed Namsan Township police—who also hadn’t dared to investigate in areas under the control of the RCSS—that the two appear to be dead.
“Our ethnic Ta’ang have relatives in Lashio, so they often have to travel in the area to visit their family members,” said Mai Kham Hlaing. “I want to ask the RCSS not to act like this anymore in the future. We are civilians, and not an enemy of the RCSS. As civilians, we need to travel sometimes,” he said.
The RCSS, of course, maintains that the claims are not true.
“If the victims’ family comes and reports to the RCSS a full set of facts about the disappearance of the two, we will investigate it on the ground,” Col. Sai Oo, the RCSS spokesperson, said. “In our army we have rules. We can’t kill civilians like animals.”