Monday, July 24, 2017

Two villagers detained for alleged KIA connections

Two villagers from the Mong Si village tract of Shan State’s Kutkai township were detained on October 17 because police suspected that they were providing food to members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), locals told The Myanmar Times.

One day later, 90 organisations demanded that the military respect the nationwide ceasefire agreement (NCA), which stipulates that the Tatmadaw and ethnic armed group signatories avoid unlawful, arbitrary arrests, entrapment, prosecution and judgements against civilians. Many also decried the use of the Unlawful Association Act, which makes it illegal for civilians to contact or provide food or other provisions to non-state armed groups, even under duress.

La Htaung, 30, and Haung Daung, 23, were summoned to meet with a military captain this week. When they did not return from the meeting, community leaders made inquiries with the military and learned that the villagers were being held under suspicion of providing food to KIA troops.

“Now they are detained at the police station, without evidence, because it is suspected that they supported the KIA,” said Kachin youth leader Ma Mai Mai. “That always happens to the civilians in the conflict zone. Now the elders of the community are trying to get them out by proving they are real villagers.”

In conflict zones, villagers often face violence and intimidation from both state and non-state troops. Soldiers will demand food and other provisions when passing through, leaving villagers with little choice.

“Detaining civilians without evidence is a kind of human rights violation,” said Shan Youth Network executive member Sai Nor Hseng. “We used to face that kind of detainment from 1990 to 1992. It causes locals suffering. It should not be happening at a time then the country is talking about peace building.”

In August, fighting between the Tatmadaw and the KIA in Kachin and northern Shan states again kicked off. A ceasefire between the two sides, which had been in place since 1994, broke down in 2011.

Four villagers detained last year in Shan State's Theinni township are still in custody, facing charges under the Unlawful Association Act for allegedly making contact with an armed group, according to Ma Mai Mai. The controversial law, under which dozens of civilians in conflict zones have been charged, can lead to a five-year prison sentence.

This article has been corrected to reflect that four villagers were detained last year in Theinni township in Shan State, not Tanai township in Kachin State, and not Kachin State, as was previously reported. The Myanmar Times regrets the error.