Civilians trapped in northern Shan State’s Manton township due to road blockages say Tatmadaw soldiers, who have been terrorizing residents through house inspections and arresting both locals and out of town visitors.
Roads to Manton have been blocked since a military convoy was attacked in the Palaung Self-Administered Zone on August 5. Clashes have erupted between the Ta’ang National Liberation Army and the Tatmadaw in neighboring Namhsan township.
“The Tatmadaw’s 77th Light Infantry Division [LID-77] has been inspecting every house [in Manton town]. At first, they allowed visitors to enter the town. Now [visitors] aren’t allowed to enter or to leave. The visitors can’t stay at their relatives’ homes. They have to stay at a monastery. When they came out of the monastery to buy soap and toothpaste all of them were arrested under suspicion.
They are being detained at the LID-77 base. Around ten people have been arrested,” said U Thein Zaw, an executive committee member of the Palaung Self-Administered Zone.
Ward officials and family members have not been permitted to meet with the detained persons.
Nan Hein Kham said her husband, Kachin civilian Zau Seng Awng, was arrested at 5pm on August 9.
“They were searching for members of an ethnic armed group. He was arrested because they thought he was from the KIA [Kachin Independence Army]. If they wanted to arrest him, they should have had evidence. We have no contact with the KIA. My husband is a normal civilian. I work in a hospital in Manton. I’m a nurse,” she said.
She added that she does not know the exact circumstances of her husband’s arrest, and that when she went to the battalion’s base to try to speak with him, she was denied entry.
“I was told that he was beaten while he was tied up. I don’t know the reason. The [detained residents] are not allowed to meet with their family members. I was told to go home when I went to see him. They [the Tatmadaw] have a strong number of forces. It’s not good to argue with soldiers. My husband and another man have been detained there. A ward official was also arrested at his home. A man searching for mushrooms in a tea plantation was also arrested and beaten,” Nan Hein Kham said.
U Thein Zaw said that while administrators from the Palaung Self-Administered Zone have contacted the tactical operations commander of LID-77 requesting they release detained residents, including U Zau Seng Awng and ward official U Aik Lyan, no response has been supplied.
“The Tatmadaw has been inspecting all suspicious residents in three wards in the town. They arrested residents even after the ward officials told them that [those people] lived here. Most of the arrested residents are Kachin and Palaung,” U Thein Zaw said.
He added that the committee will submit a letter of complaint to the Shan State Chief Minister since both the Shan State Minister of Security and Border Affairs and the tactical operations commander have failed to reply.