Stop using civilians as weapons of war, Shan CSOs urge armed groups

Following accusations of extrajudicial killings and the mass abduction of civilians in northern Shan State’s Kyaukme district by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), 35 local civil society organizations (CSOs) have released a statement, urging all armed groups to refrain from using civilians as weapons of war.

According to the statement, which was published on Saturday, about 90 villagers were arrested and two were killed by troops from the TNLA between 6 March and 15 March 2017 in Mantong and Namtu townships, which are in Kyaukme district. The arrests were all ethnic Shan villagers.

“Each and every armed group must stop using civilians as their weapon when fighting each other,” read the statement. “Please stop violating the villagers. Please understand their position, because whenever any armed group makes a request of them, they are obliged to follow it. Please stop fighting.”

Clashes between the TNLA and the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA) broke out in November 2015, only one month after the RCSS/SSA signed a National Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) with the Burmese government under then president, Thein Sein. The TNLA was excluded from the signing and the peace process.

Clashes between two groups have continued to date.

“We want the Shan and Ta’ang people to live together peacefully,” said Sai Seng Murng, a co-organizer of the statement. “We want the government to resolve these problems.”

He added: “Armed groups should protect the people, not oppress them.”

Regarding the alleged abductions or detention of civilians in Kyaukme, Mong Aik Kyaw, the TNLA’s spokesperson, told DVB on March 15 that his group did not arrest the villagers. He said the villagers were called in for a seminar about the dangers of drugs.

However, the CSOs’ statement said that among those arrested, three villagers are still listed as missing. At the time of reporting, there is no news about them.

Fighting continues regularly in the northern part of Shan State between the Burmese armed forces and ethnic armed groups, both NCA and non-NCA groups. Since 2017, thousands of villagers have been compelled to flee their homes due to the various armed conflicts.  

By Shan Herald Agency for News (SHAN)


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