At Least 11 Civilians Killed Since Start of Conflict in Shan State: CSOs

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Civil society organizations (CSOs) in northern Shan State say that nearly a dozen civilians have died in the region due to fighting between the Burma Army and an alliance of ethnic armed groups that began two weeks ago.

“The death toll continues to rise. So far, we can confirm that 11 civilians have been killed and another 25 injured. But that is just confirmed cases in our area. I don’t know the figures for other areas where it is more difficult to get information,” said Hawng Dau, a spokesperson for the Humanitarian Strategic Team-Northern Shan State (HST-NSS), a local CSO.

In addition to deaths and injuries, there have also been reports of human rights abuses committed by both sides in the conflict.

“Civilians have been killed and injured in clashes. Civilians have also been arrested and tortured when they are suspected by both sides. These are consequences of war. I think innocent civilians are being abused,” Hawng Dau told NMG.

The latest confirmed civilian casualties were reported on Monday, when the Burma Army’s Infantry Battalion 45, based in Kutkai, opened fire and a shell landed on Pang Say, a village in Kutkai Township’s Kar Lai village tract.

One civilian was killed in that incident and another was taken to Kutkai public hospital to be treated for injuries.

Meanwhile, two men who were arrested in Pyin Oo Lwin three days after ethnic alliance forces launched coordinated attacks on Burma Army targets in the town on August 15 remain in police custody, according to a local source.

“They are still being detained on remand at the police station in Pyin Oo Lwin. From what I’ve heard from their parents, the authorities are still investigating their sons,” Sai Su, a spokesperson for the Tai Youth Network (TYN), told NMG.

The two ethnic Shan youths, Sai Hkun Mong, 26, and Sai Lieng Zuen, 24, were volunteer teachers at the Daw Dai education center. They are from farming communities and are not known to have any involvement with any military affairs, according to the TYN spokesperson.

One reason civilians have been subjected to abuses is that many are unable to speak Burmese, according Hkawng Dau, who added that both sides of the conflict need to take responsibility for the suffering that they have caused.

“Some civilians are arrested because they can’t speak Burmese. This leads to human rights abuses. But there is also no rule of law in the conflict-affected area” Hkawng Dau told NMG.

“So far, no armed organization has admitted to causing civilian deaths and casualties. I think both sides need to be held accountable for their actions in northern Shan State,” the HST-NSS spokesperson added.

The current crisis began earlier this month when three allied ethnic armed groups attacked the Defense Services Technological Academy in Pyin Oo Lwin and other Burma Army targets in northern Shan State on August 15.