Shan State Parliament refused to discuss allegations that different armed forces had used local civilians as human shields to clear landmines in northern Shan State, according to a local lawmaker who tried to raise the issue.
Sai Htun Nyan, from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) from Kyaukme Township in northern Shan, told The Irrawaddy that many people in his constituency had provided accounts of how they were forced to act as “guides,” walking in front of military units through minefields. While many of the armed groups active in the area employ the practice, the Myanmar Army does it the most, he said.
Shan State Parliament was in session from May 24 to 31 when Sai Htun Nyan proposed discussing the issue with the intention to condemn the armed groups that employed the practice, but Parliament officials turned him down.
“They did not accept my proposal. They did not inform me with an official notice. Parliament officials just told me that I could not talk about it in Parliament and that the government office would not give me permission,” Sai Htun Nyan said.
The lawmaker said his brief did not mention any armed groups by name although the Parliament and government probably understood whom he was going to identify, and therefore rejected his motion.
“It seemed to me that if I condemned other ethnic armed groups and mentioned particular names, they would let my proposal pass and I would be able to raise the issue in Parliament. But as it was likely to mention their army, they blocked it,” he said.
Lawmakers are required to propose the issues the want to table in Parliament 10 days before they intend to talk. The parliamentary office then examines the proposal, and if they agree to it, they let the lawmaker raise the issue in Parliament for discussion.
Normally, it is the parliamentary office that is responsible for screening the suggested topics and making a decision on whether to allow them to be raised. However, in this instance the Shan State government asked local authorities to check the lawmakers’ proposals, in violation of parliamentary procedure, Sai Htun Nyan said.
“I wanted to highlight the incident of a mine explosion that injured a local villager in Taw Sang,” he said.
Taw Sang is a village in Kyaukme where there have been frequent clashes between the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) but it has also been the site of fighting between the Myanmar Army and the TNLA.
According to Sai Htun Nyan, a local ethnic Shan man was forced to walk ahead of a Myanmar Army infantry column in a conflict area where he stepped on a land mine on May 3. The man was wounded in his leg while some nearby soldiers were killed on the spot by the explosion. The army was in the area to investigate the scene after a clash between the RCSS and TNLA.
“It is quite usual for our Shan armed groups to use civilians as guides. If they are lucky and there is no fighting, the local person is allowed to return home. This practice has been widely used by many of the armed groups in Shan State. But, the Tatmadaw (Myanmar Army) uses it the most,” Sai Htun Nyan added.
“I feel sad as I cannot talk on behalf of my constituents. I feel like I did not do my duty,” he said.