The Irrawaddy

Tatmadaw Accused of Torturing Shan Civilians in Loilem Township

A map from a recent Shan Human Rights Foundation report shows the locations of alleged human rights violations perpetrated by the Myanmar Army in Loilem Township in June and July 2018.

YANGON – The Myanmar Army (Tatmadaw) and local militias in southern Shan State have engaged in torture and other human rights violations against civilians in Loilem Township south of Mong Kung, a human rights group said.

The alleged violations occurred before and during armed clashes between the Tatmadaw and forces of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) over the past two weeks, the Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF) said in a statement on Thursday.

According to the foundation, troops from the Tatmadaw’s Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 430, together with the local militias, tortured residents of Nawng Leng village tract in Loilem Township and accused them of having links to the RCSS/SSA (Shan State Army – South).

SHRF said that between June 8 and July 8, Tatmadaw soldiers searched the residents’ homes, beating villagers — including the village leaders — and warning them that anyone who assisted Shan troops would face 20 years in prison.

The threat was made on July 8 when Major Aung Min Tun of LIB 430, under the Eastern Command based at Taunggyi, the capital of Shan State, searched the home of Loi Gurn village headman Sai Su Nanda in Loilem, the foundation said.

SHRF documented a case in which over 100 Tatmadaw soldiers from LIB 576 looted livestock from residents of Wan Nam Oat, Ham Ngai village tract in Mong Kung on July 11. The combined value of the stolen livestock was 3.5 million kyats (around USD2,457). LIB 576 is based in Keng Tawng, Mong Nai Township, under Military Operations Command 17.

A month earlier, according to SHRF, Captain Taung Lin Htut of LIB 430 searched the homes of at least seven villagers. On June 27, the soldiers searched the home of Wan Mu Ser village head Loong Karng Tawng, 50. When they found dynamite — which residents of the area commonly use to catch fish — they accused him of working as a recruiter for the RCSS/SSA. When he denied the allegation, Tatmadaw personnel “severely tortured” him, SHRF said.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact either the military’s spokesmen or the Tatmadaw’s True New Information Committee on Friday.

The Tatmadaw and RCSS have been involved in clashes over territorial disputes in Mong Kung Township for the past two weeks. The fighting continued on Wednesday near the borders of Mong Kung, Keysi (Kyethi) and Lechar (Laihka) townships, according to Lt-Col Sai Oo, an RCSS spokesman. The fighting appeared to have subsided on Friday, he said.

Fighting between the two signatories of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in Wan Huay Moan village, Mong Kung from July 9 to 12 displaced over 450 people.

The participation of both sides in the recent third session of the 21st-Century Panglong Union Peace Conference was unable to end the clashes.

Local sources told The Irrawaddy fighting had flared recently in Mong Khun village, Mong Kung. The RCSS and Tatmadaw previously fought there on May 22.

Lt-Col Sai Oo said Shan leaders would seek to resolve the issue through talks and were likely to meet with government peace commissioners in Chiang Mai, northern Thailand, on Friday. He declined to offer details of those possible talks.

According to a source close to peace negotiators, RCSS chairman General Yawd Serk met the government Peace Commission’s secretary U Khin Zaw Oo, a former Tatmadaw lieutenant-general, on Friday.

Gen. Yawd Serk boycotted last week’s Union Peace Conference. He was quoted by the Shan Herald News Agency on Friday as saying that he did not join the conference because it was going nowhere, with discussions of key political and security principles excluded from the agenda.