The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and other local organizations have accused the Myanmar Army of detaining five civilians in Namkham Township in northern Shan State amid ongoing clashes in Ta’ang-occupied areas throughout September.
TNLA spokesperson Mong Aik Kyaw told The Irrawaddy on Tuesday that the seven clashes—in Kyaukme, Namtu and Namsang townships—were due to Myanmar Army offensives and that there were also two clashes in August.
Chair of the Ta’ang Cultural and Literature Organization (Namkham) U Myint Kyaw said Tatmadaw Battalion 88 soldiers arrested five residents from Mankham village on Sunday morning: Tar Aik Lay, Tar Aik Lar, Tar Yein Kyaw, Tar Tun Thit, and Mong Aik Myint.
Three of the villagers were released the same day after community elders appealed to the Tatmadaw, while the other two were released on Monday, U Myint Kyaw said.
“The villagers said the military didn’t torture them,” he told The Irrawaddy, explaining that the Myanmar Army had been known to charge locals under Article 17(1) of the Unlawful Association Act, alleging a connection to ethnic armed groups, but that this was not the case this time.
The Irrawaddy was not able to obtain comment from military spokesperson Maj-Gen Aung Ye Win regarding the claims.
Several ethnic human rights groups have reported recent arrests of civilians in conflict zones due to suspicion of contact with ethnic armed groups.
Last week, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) released a statement detailing the arrest and subsequent forced labor of Shan civilians in Mongyai Township by the Myanmar Army Infantry Battalion 325.
The SHRF statement said that on Sept. 10, the battalion detained three villagers overnight, upon suspicion that they were affiliated with an ethnic armed group. They were released once a community elder came and vouched for them.
“One was beaten, causing his left eye to become bruised. They forced him to carry their military bags,” the report said.
On the same day, Battalion 325 reportedly started shooting after being surprised by a landmine blast. SHRF said that the shooting led residents of Wan Loi Yoi village in Mongyai Township—about 300 people—to flee their homes into another nearby village tract, as well as into the jungle.
A Ta’ang Women’s Organization report from June 2016 detailed alleged war crimes against civilians in Ta’ang areas of northern Shan State, including evidence of torture, shelling, and forced labor.
The TNLA is a member of the Federal Political Negotiation Consultative Committee (FPNCC) led by United Wa State Army (UWSA).
The group also includes the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Shan State Army-North (SSA-N), the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), the Arakan Army, and the TNLA.
The TNLA operates in the townships of Nawnghkio, Kyaukme, Hsipaw, Kutkai, Namtu, Mongton, Nansang, Namkham, Muse, Mongmit, Mongkhet in northern Shan State and calls for self-determination for ethnic Ta’ang and a genuine federal Union in Myanmar.
The TNLA spokesperson said the group was founded to oppose dictatorship and discrimination.