Govt rejects report of massive detention in Mong Koe
THE President’s Office has denied claims from a civil society group that dozens of civilians in Mong Koe town, northern Shan State, were being detained arbitrarily.
The Kachin Peace Network released a statement on November 29 saying about 70 civilians at a wedding ceremony were detained by the Tatmadaw on November 20, the same day a coordinated assault against police and military outposts was launched by the Northern Alliance-Burma.
The Northern Alliance, comprised of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army (AA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), staged attacks on several Tatmadaw and police positions in Muse and Kutkai townships on November 20.
U Zaw Htay, deputy director general of the President’s Office, said the government had looked into the claims of massive civilian detentions by the Tatmadaw in Mong Koe.
“Since the fighting broke out on November 20, the members of armed ethnic groups mixed in with civilians in Mong Koe town. So the Tatmadaw could not do counter-offensives,” he said.
“We confirm that the information [from civil society groups] is not correct,” he said.
U Zaw Htay said his office had contacted not only Tatmadaw troops on the ground but also local police.
The Kachin Peace Network statement said 12 Chinese citizens, among a wedding party of some 70 who were initially detained, were released after negotiations with local Chinese authorities on November 21. Two Myanmar civilians were reportedly released on November 25.
Some 56 remain in custody, said the Kachin Peace Network’s Gum Sha Aung.
“We collected the information based on the accounts of the two Myanmar civilians who were released on November 25. They are now in IDP [internally displaced person] camps,” he said.
He said the rest are now apparently being detained at Tatmadaw military outposts in Mong Koe.
The statement issued by KPN urges the Myanmar government and military to immediately and unconditionally release the civilians, and ensure the protection of human life and dignity as an utmost priority.
The KPN also said it firmly demands that all warring factions refrain from committing crimes against humanity, as well as adhering to international humanitarian law and human rights law in their terms of engagement.
“We urge them to strictly follow the Geneva Convention,” said Gum Sha Aung.
U Zaw Htay said the Tatmadaw has so far detained just five members of the Northern Alliance.
Since fighting began on November 20, both the government and the ethnic alliance have also been engaged in a war of information, with both sides accusing the other of harming civilians.
The State Counsellor’s Office Information Committee yesterday released a statement saying 10 civilians have died since the flare-up began in northern Shan State. The total number of dead was said to be 14, with three reported to be police and another belonging to a local government-backed militia.
According to official reports, the number of civilians injured so far has reached 37, as well as 11 police and two civil servants.