Myanmar junta detains dozens, including 3 pastors, in village raid, witnesses say

The group was questioned for information on ethnic minority insurgents and beaten, said a released prisoner.
By RFA Burmese
Myanmar junta detains dozens, including 3 pastors, in village raid, witnesses say Junta troops in Hpakant town, Kachin State on March 11, 2021.
Citizen journalist

Junta troops raided a village in northern Myanmar’s Kachin State on Thursday and detained more than 30 people, including Christian leaders and teenagers on suspicion of supporting a rebel group, residents told Radio Free Asia. 

A group of about 100 soldiers stormed the village in Kachin State’s Hpakant township before dawn and rounded up villagers in a school before marching the detainees away for questioning, they said.

“More than 200 villagers were held in the school initially,” said one villager who declined to be identified for safety reasons.

“They said they would shoot up the village if they [junta troops] were attacked. They made threats to scare us.”

Those detained were accused of supporting the anti-junta Kachin Independence Army, villagers said. The detainees were released after about nine hours of questioning, they said.

RFA telephoned Kachin State’s junta spokesperson, Moe Min Thein, for more information but he did not respond. 

The Kachin force, one of Myanmar’s most powerful ethnic minority guerrilla groups battling for self-determination, has said it has captured at least 100 junta camps and eight towns across the state, and in neighboring Shan State, over recent months.

This week,  Kachin fighters captured a junta camp and secured a trade route near the Kachin State capital of Myitkyina, close to the  border with China.

Soldiers from the junta’s Divisions 33 and 77 conducted the raid on Nam Si In village and took away the men, most of them middle-aged, said one villager, who declined to be identified for safety reasons.

“Three Christian pastors were among those arrested,” said the villager.

Many Kachin are Christian.

The detained villagers were interrogated about any links to the Kachin Independence Army and other anti-junta militias set up by pro-democracy activists, said one of those questioned. Some of them were beaten with guns and told to report any rebel activity, he added.

Five teenagers were among those detained and beaten, he said.

Kachin guerrillas have in recent weeks captured junta camps in four villages in heavy fighting in Hpakant township, residents said. 

Kachin Baptist Convention pastor Hkalam Samson was released on parole in one of the junta’s mass amnesties on April 17 after being sentenced to six years in prison under an anti-terrorism law. But he was re-arrested later that day, according to sources close to the family. 

Unidentified  gunmen have executed at least two pastors in  Kachin State this year. The motive for the killings was not known.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn. 


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