Shanni Community Calls on KIO to Avoid Interethnic Conflict

Sunday, July 26, 2020

Members of the ethnic Shanni community have spoken out about human rights abuses in northern Burma that they say could threaten peaceful coexistence between Shanni and Kachin communities.

Among the incidents highlighted by the Shanni community are the arrest of two Shanni students from Per Hok Gyi village in Sagaing Region’s Homalin Township by Kachin Independence Army/Organization (KIA/O) soldiers on July 6. The students 18-year-old Maung Thant Zin Aung and 17-year-old Maung Zaw Myo Oo were later killed, they said.

“To avoid interethnic conflict, we demand that the KIO/KIA to control their soldiers,” Nang Khur Hseng, a spokesperson for the Shanni Youth Network, told NMG. “We were afraid to speak out in the past because we were afraid of both the Burma Army and the KIA. Now the situation has changed. They need to know,” Shanni youth activist Nang Khur Hseng said.

Justice in the case is “very important for peaceful coexistence between Kachin and Shanni people,” according to Htay Aung, the chair of the Tai-Leng (Shanni) Nationalities Development Party (TNDP).

The TNDP released a July 23 statement demanding that the KIO apologize to the victims’ families and take action against the perpetrators.

“Both the Shan and Kachin are ethnic people. All people are struggling against dictatorship… We have to criticize whoever oppresses other ethnic people. Therefore, they need to consider how to create peaceful co-existence between different ethnic groups,” Htay Aung told NMG.

Col Naw Bu, who is in charge of the KIO’s information department, told NMG that he agreed that an official apology to the families of the victims was in order, and that his organization has been in talks with Shan and Kachin cultural associations regarding how to strengthen relationships between the communities.

“We will try to seek a way to make an apology to the parents of the victims that meets their satisfaction. We are preparing for it,” he said.

The TNDP’s statement accused the KIO/A of collecting taxes, forcibly recruiting soldiers, and perpetrating rights abuses; it also expressed disappointment in the Burmese government and military’s lack of ability to protect locals.

Shanni youth activist Nang Khur Hseng described the “taxes” – which need to be paid to both the KIO and the Burmese government—as a burden on the community. She also described how local men had been arrested by Kachin soldiers after being wrongly accused of being addicted to drugs.

“Local people are afraid of the [Burmese] military regime and the KIA. Even though we are alive, we feel like we are dead. Local young people want to start an armed struggle,” she said.

The KIO’s Col Naw Bu said his organization is concerned about potential conflict between the Kachin and Shanni communities.

“There is no political stability in our country at the moment. We are so worried that it will turn into an interethnic conflict. This is a sensitive issue. That’s why we are carefully trying to investigate this case,” he told NMG.

The spokesperson said the killing of the Shanni students was wrong was not a reflection of the KIO/A codes of conduct.

“Our soldiers have a responsibility to live together with people, including Shan and Kachin people. I want to say that this murder is not our policy. Our soldiers committed a wrongdoing it’s not the KIO’s policy. It was personal wrongdoing. We expect that we will be able to resolve this case successfully,” Col Naw Bu explained.