SNLD members still held by TNLA, says spokesman

Five members of the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), who were allegedly arrested by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) on Saturday, have still not been released, according to an SNLD executive member and spokesperson.

Sai Lek, the spokesman for the SNLD, told Shan Herald that his party had no information about the five members who were detained by the Ta’ang rebels in the village of Pang Kwan in Kyaukme Township.

“Our five party members have not yet been released,” he said. “Some detainees from the villages of Mong Tat and Mong Mauk in Namtu Township were freed, but not the Pang Kwan people. However, I believe this is not a big issue, and that we can resolve the matter. After all, we are brothers who live together in Shan State.”

He added: “Right now, we should all be working for Shan State unity. If Shan State is destroyed, the union will also be destroyed.”

Two days after the alleged arrest, the SNLD released a statement demanding the TNLA release all its members and other detained civilians.

The statement said that the TNLA had arrested a total of 36 people, including 24 villagers from Pang Kwan who were detained on December 10. Another 12 villagers – eleven from Mong Tat and one from Wan Nar – were allegedly arrested in Namtu Township last month.

On December 13, the TNLA News and Information Department published on its website a report saying that 11 men had already been released in Namtu Township. However, it said that these men were all from Mong Kark village, and had been arrested amid fighting between TNLA troops and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).

According to a statement by Burma’s State Counselor Information Committee on Monday, the TNLA had recruited 21 villagers from Pang Kwan.

“We have a new military recruitment policy for our party,” Col. Tar Phong Kyaw, a TNLA spokesperson, told The Irrawaddy news agency this week. “However, we only recruit soldiers from amongst our Ta’ang [Palaung] people. We do not recruit from the ethnic Shan villages. We are checking at the ground level to ascertain the status of those arrested in Kyaukme. If they are Shan, we will release them.”

TNLA is a member of the newly formed Northern Alliance, alongside the Arakan Army (AA), Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA). The coalition has conducted synchronized offensives against the Burmese armed forces in northern Shan State since November 20.

On December 7, the Shan State regional assembly voted narrowly to classify the four militias as “terrorist organizations”.

However, according to Khuensai, the managing director of the Pyidaungsu Institute for Peace and Dialogue (PI), this issue will have no impact as the state or region assembly has no power to create law on terrorism matter.

“The state government has no power to make laws regarding terrorism,” he told Shan Herald on December 8, a day of the approval. “Just as it has no authority over home affairs, foreign affairs and legislature. Therefore, even though the Shan State government approved a motion describing the four armed groups as terrorists, it will not be mandated by law.”

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SNLD)