Kachin Group Demands Myanmar Government Free Civilians Held in Shan State Conflict

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Myanmar government troops board a military helicopter in Muse township in Myanmar's northern Shan state near the border with China, Nov. 25, 2016.
Myanmar government troops board a military helicopter in Muse township in Myanmar's northern Shan state near the border with China, Nov. 25, 2016.

A Kachin civil society organization has called on the Myanmar government to immediately release civilians arrested by military forces in the Mong Ko area of Muse township in northern Shan state, where fierce fighting between ethnic armed groups and national army has recently occurred.

The Kachin Peace Network (KPN) wants the military to free civilians who have been detained since Nov. 20, when fierce fighting broke out in Muse, as well as ensure the protection of life and dignity of local residents, according to a statement the group issued on Tuesday.

“We have been asking for the release of detained civilians, asking the government and ethnic armed groups to stop fighting and to resolve the current conflicts and problems together by peaceful means,” said Gwan Sha Aung from the KPN, an advocacy group of Kachin professionals whose motto is “Justice Guarantees Lasting Peace.”

During the hostilities that occurred near Mong Ko, Myanmar’s armed forces arrested 70 civilians who were on their way to a wedding in Hpau Jung Pa village, the statement said. Authorities released a dozen of the detained who were relatives from China on Nov. 21, and freed another two from Myanmar on Nov. 25. Security forces are still holding the others.

“Such an arbitrary detention of the civilians is a clear sign of breaching the Geneva Convention,” the statement said in a reference to the international treaties that dictate the treatment of civilians, prisoners of war, and soldiers during wartime.

The KPN also demanded that the warring parties refrain from committing crimes against humanity and fully respect international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Northern Alliance attack

The Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA)—which collectively call themselves the Northern Alliance—launched coordinated attacks on 10 government and military targets in the Muse township villages of Mong Ko and Pang Zai, the 105-mile border trade zone between Myanmar and China, and areas of Namhkam and Kutkai townships.

The groups have said that they engaged in the limited war in response to offensives by national army soldiers in the long-restive area.

So far, more than 10 civilians have been killed, 40 have been injured, and thousands have fled their homes for safer places, as hostilities continue in Muse, Namhkam, and Kutkai townships, the Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN) reported on Thursday.

More than 3,000 have sought refuge across the border in China, prompting the Chinese military to deploy more soldiers and weapons along the border, while others have returned to their homes, according to SHAN.

Police in neighboring Kachin state had also increased security when the fighting broke out.

An ongoing conflict between the government army and TNLA troops has continued to force residents of Mantong township in Kyaukme district to flee their homes, Nang Kham Aye, a lawmaker from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) party who represents the district’s Namtu township, told SHAN on Thursday.

There are now about 800 displaced people in Kyaukme since the fighting broke out on Nov. 23, she said.

An announcement on the TNLA’s website said its soldiers had fought government troops between the villages of Kongmong and Kongngaung in Mantong township, according to SHAN.

Myanmar’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday approved a motion by the opposition Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) expressing concern about the conflicts in Shan state and their effect on civilians, Democratic Voice of Burma reported. The motion will be debated at a later date.

Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.





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