Ta’ang Rights Group Blames Myanmar Military for Targeting Civilians

By Lei Lei 10 January 2020

Yangon – More than 200 residents experienced human rights abuses in seven Ta’ang ethnic-majority townships in northern Shan State in 2019, according to Lway Chesanga, the spokeswoman for the Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO).

The organization said villagers suffered from artillery strikes targeting civilian areas and were killed or injured by landmines. They were also abducted, held hostage, used as forced forest guides, tortured, killed and had their homes looted.

Most of the human rights abuses were reported in Kutkai, Namhsan, Kyaukme and Hsipaw townships, with a few reported in Namkham, Namtu and Mantong townships, the TWO said.

“Overall, around 250 people suffered from human rights abuses. Some died, some can no longer work and some went missing,” Lway Chesanga told The Irrawaddy.

Rape cases were not included because they were difficult to confirm due to limited access to the area, the group said.

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is active in the area, is holding talks with the government and Myanmar’s military over a possible ceasefire agreement together with its allies, the Kachin Independence Army, Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) and Arakan Army (AA).

However, the Tatmadaw or military has refused to recognize TNLA, MNDAA and AA territory and ceasefire agreements are unlikely while clashes continue.

The three groups, citing Myanmar’s military offensives on them, attacked several targets, including the Defense Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin Township, Mandalay Region, in August.

They also blew up five bridges in northern Shan State on the trade route to the Chinese border, forcing the Construction Ministry to rebuild them.

More clashes have taken place since November last year.

The numbers of civilians suffering from rights abuses increased from 70 in July to September to 123 in October to December last year, said the TWO.

The organization claimed that homes were looted in clashes and accused Myanmar’s military of committing most of the rights abuses. The Restoration Council of Shan State and Shan State Progress Party are also active in the area.

In Kyaukme Township, numerous tea growers have been killed or lost limbs because of landmines.

U Aung Myo Min, director of human rights organization Equality Myanmar, said: “Human rights violations have increased in conflict areas. The rule of law and the judicial system are too weak to punish perpetrators of human rights violations.”

On Nov. 22 last year, Division 88 of Myanmar’s military briefly abducted 63 residents from Hukhin village-tract in Namhsan Township. The villagers said some were beaten and forced to carry equipment.

A civilian was injured when the TNLA, MNDAA and AA fired rockets at the airport, downtown and a military logistics hub in Lashio in northern Shan State on Nov. 16.

“The situation has got worse and innocent civilians suffer. The insecurity can lead to grave human rights violations. The failure to take action against perpetrators encourages future acts, which is harmful for the country, the judicial system and rule of law,” said U Aung Myo Min.

The TWO said the threat of landmines meant villagers feared farming or sending their children to school.

“The two sides blame each other and justice is barely served in many cases. When people’s trust and reliance in the judicial system declines, it can lead to street justice,” said U Aung Myo Min.

Myanmar is a signatory to the 1949 Geneva Convention, which prohibits targeting civilians or their property.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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