Burma Army killed, tortured civilians in Ho Pong, says Shan NGO

Burmese armed forces arbitrarily killed, tortured and arrested local people in southern Shan State’s Ho Pong Township during the period July 16–30, according to a briefing today from local watchdog Shan Human Rights Foundation (SHRF).

SHRF says that the extrajudicial killings, torture and arrest of civilians occurred after the Burmese military clashed with the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA), which is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA), near Hai Khai village, Ho Pong Township, on July 14.

In a detailed eight-page report, SHRF documented that a litany of human right violations were committed by soldiers belonging to the following Burmese military battalions: Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 508; LIB 509 of Light Infantry Division 55 (Ba Htoo Base); LIB 423; LIB 424 of Military Operations Command 7 (Hsihseng Base); IB 225 from Triangle Military Command (Kengtung Base); and IB 249 from Eastern Military Command (Taunggyi Base).

The Shan rights group reported that at least one villager was killed and up to seven others remain unaccounted for, their whereabouts unknown.

“On July 18, 2017, at 10 am, two farmers named Sai Jarm and Sai Panda from Khok Lao village were on their way from a corn farm to a paddy field near the village carrying two rifles, one long-barreled and one short-barreled (used for hunting and protection against wild animals in the jungle), when they [encountered] about 100 Burma Army troops from LIB 424,” reads the statement. “The troops arrested and interrogated both of them, then took them with them, first to Khok Lao village, then to Kho Tawng village. This was seen by local villagers.”

The report continued: “On the way, they met a 12-year-old boy called Sai Win, from Kho Tawng, who was returning home after sending his grandfather to Nawng Vok village, south of Kho Tawng. He was carrying a walkie-talkie (commonly used by villagers for communication as there is no mobile phone coverage in the area). He was arrested and taken together with the other two villagers to a corn farm belonging to Lung Wan Na, in the hills near Kho Tawng village.”

The SHRF statement read: “SHRF is gravely concerned for the fate of the seven detained villagers, particularly the 12-year-old boy, and urges their immediate and unconditional release.”

The report also described how Burmese troops killed a mentally ill man last week.

“On July 30, at about 10 am, a farm laborer called Lung Shwe (who was mentally ill) was seen being arrested, beaten and shot dead by Burma Army troops from LIB 425 at Mai Nim. On August 1, a villager went and found his body, which had been burned, but he did not dare take it back to the village. The body remains uncollected, but on August 2, a funeral ceremony was held for Lung Shwe at the Hai Kai village monastery.”

Sai Hor Hseng, a spokesperson of the SHRF, said that the Burmese military must take responsibility for their crimes.

“Killing innocent people is [a violation of the] military code of ethics,” he said. “Therefore, the Burmese armed forces are responsible for all of their crimes and [should compensate] the victims.”

“The government should not be silent,” he added. “They should come out and do something for the people.”

Extrajudicial executions and arrest of civilians have been regularly reported across Shan State. On June 30, 2017 Shan Herald reported that shelling killed two villagers in Wan Penghoi Village in northern Shan State’s Kutkhai Township amid fighting between Burmese armed forces and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).

“The situation is the same or even worse compared to last year,” Shan activist Sai Hor Hseng said. “Burmese troops were even torturing and arresting civilians while UN envoy Yanghee Lee was in the country [July 9-21, 2017].”

In June last year, SHRF reported that 43 villagers including women were used as human shields, while five villagers were seriously tortured and three were killed by Burmese armed forces during fighting with the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army (SSPP/SSA) in Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State.

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)