Three ethnic Kachin internally displaced persons (IDPs) were released by the Myanmar Army after being forced to work as porters in Mansi township, but two others had yet to return to the Maing Hkawng camp for IDPs, according to local sources.
Naw Mai, a Maing Hkawng camp leader, told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that three IDPs “came back safely to the camp.”
The Myanmar Army, or Tatmadaw, ordered the three Kachin to transport food by motorbike into the jungle for soldiers who were serving on the frontline. They were released Wednesday morning after spending a night in the jungle, Naw Mai said.
“They [the Army] did not do anything to them. They gave them dinner,” a relative of one the victims reported The Irrawaddy as telling her.
The three were carrying rice at their village about 6 miles from Maing Hkawng camp when soldiers stopped them on the way and forced them to carry food for their unit.
Two other people, Hpaugan Yaw, 65, and Nhkum Naw San, 31, have been missing for two weeks, according to local sources. Naw Mai said he and his fellow camp leaders went to meet officers at the Tatmadaw’s Infantry Battalion 602, which is based in Maing Hkawng, several times and asked for permission to look for the two missing IDPs.
“Our last meeting was on Feb. 10. They did not let us search for the two missing people,” he said.
The pair had been living at Maing Hkawng camp. On Jan. 30, they went back to their village to take care of their animals, intending to return the next day. When the son of one of the IDPs went to pick them up by motorbike, he saw them being detained by soldiers.
“We don’t know why they arrested our people. We weren’t even sure which battalion arrested them; only that it was the Army,” said Kaw Awng, a relative of one the victims.
On Feb. 5, the family informed police in Mansi that the men were missing. They said they didn’t dare tell police about the Army’s involvement.
“We are afraid of the Army, so we didn’t dare mention that [soldiers] arrested them,” Kaw Awng said.
Mansi police officer U Myo Thant said police had informed other authorities about the missing pair, and had posted photographs of them in other areas, requesting information.
“To help find them, we have distributed their photos, and letters, and we even informed authorities in other areas about the two missing people,” U Myo Thant said.
The Army’s Infantry Battalion 602 and Infantry Division 99 are both based in the Maing Hkawng area, but the family did not know which one had detained their relatives. They were reluctant to approach the Army about a missing persons case.
Hkun Nawng, a Kachin Legal Aid Network official based in Myitkyina helping to locate the missing pair, said his group had sent letters to the Kachin state chief minister and the Army’s Northern Command chief requesting their help with the case.
The Maing Hkawng IDP camp houses about 2,500 IDPs. Fighting broke out in the area in 2011, causing many people to flee their homes. Last year, about 50 IDPs attempted to return to their homes, but they were forced to return when fighting flared recently.
Last month, six Myanmar Army soldiers were each sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment with hard labor for killing three IDPs from Maing Hkawng last year who had been foraging for firewood in the forest.
The Kachin Independence Army has two bases in the area, housing its Battalion 12 and Battalion 27. The Tatmadaw has ordered the KIA to withdraw from these areas but it has refused, fueling the tension.