Human Rights Abuses Still Rampant in Ta’ang Area: TWO

Serious abuses against civilians in northern Shan State have traumatized the local population, according to the Ta’ang Women’s Organization.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Despite the Burma Army’s extension of its unilateral ceasefire in northern Shan State, human rights abuses remain a serious problem in the Ta’ang area in the region, according to the Ta’ang Women’s Organization (TWO).

The group says that it documented more than 80 cases of serious human rights violations in northern Shan State in the first six months of this year.

“There are a total of 85 people. They were tortured, threatened, and sexually abused. Some were arrested and sentenced to imprisonment. Some are still in custody in jail. Some have completely disappeared,” Lway Chi Sanga, the spokesperson for the TWO, told NMG.

According to statistics compiled by the TWO between January and June 2019, there were 30 cases of people being arrested, of whom 11 are still in jail or prison. There were also 30 cases of torture, three of murder, and two of sexual assault. Landmines claimed 20 civilian casualties, including five who died from their injuries.

The Burma Army was not responsible for all of these abuses. According to the TWO, ethnic armed organizations (EAOs) also arrested, detained, threatened, and abused local people during the unilateral ceasefire period.

Most of the abuses documented by the group occurred in areas of northern Shan State where armed conflicts have taken place, including Kutkhai, Hsipaw, Manton, Namkham, Namhsan, Namtu and Kyaukme townships.

On July 10, more than 40 civil society organizations (CSOs) called for immediate action in the case of Nhkum Nang Htang, a woman who was brutally murdered in her home in Nam Soung Kyae, a village in Kutkai Township. They also urged all armed groups operating in the area to take responsibility for the security for women living in conflict-affected areas.

“Women are not safe in conflict-affected areas. Both the Burma Army and EAOs should consider women’s security. Both the Burma Army and EAOs should respect international laws,” said Hkawng Nang of the Women’s Peace and Security Network (Northern Shan State).

Last year, the Burma Army declared a unilateral ceasefire in five regional military commands from December 21, 2018, to April 30, 2019. This was then extended from April 30 to June 30 and again from June 30 to August 31.

Northern Shan State is included in the North Eastern Command, where there are a number of active EAOs, including the Kachin Independence Army, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army, the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, and people’s militia forces.

According to the TWO, one factor leading to abuses is the language barrier between some armed groups and local people, especially those who don’t normally interact with people outside of their communities because of their age.

“Local people who are middle-aged or older, and those under the age of 18, are often abused because they can only speak their mother tongue,” said Lway Chi Sanga, the TWO spokesperson.

The TWO said that many civilians in conflict-affected areas suffer from mental trauma because of frequent abuses. It therefore called on all armed organizations to stop arresting, detaining, torturing and threatening local people, and to immediately release all detained civilians.