Myanmar

Kachin army captures 30 gov’t troops as fighting intensifies

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By NANG MYA NADI

Published: 5 July 2012

Kachin Independence Army troops sit on the side of a road in Laiza, Kachin state. (Ryan Libre) The Kachin Independence Army has captured more than 30 Burmese Army prisoners of war and deserters as fighting heats up in the year long conflict.

The KIA’s spokesperson La Nan told DVB that the captives were primarily of the private and sergeant rank and were being handled in accordance with international standards concerning the treatment of POWs.

“Regardless of how they ended up being captured, we treat the enemy’s soldiers humanely,” said La Nan.

However, such claims are hard to independently verify.

He said some of the POWs and deserters were unwilling to be handed back over to their Burmese Army battalions in fear of being punished. The issue of returning POWs was raised during an unofficial meeting with the Burmese government’s Peace Making Work Committee’s Deputy Chairman Railway Minister Aung Min in June.

According to La Na, KIA POWs who are being held by the Burmese army are often subjected to torture and even extrajudicial execution.

“In May, seven of our soldiers were captured alive during a skirmish in Pangwa. After they surrendered, six of them were shot and killed and the only one kept alive was sent to Myitkyina,” said La Na.

“Also, a soldier from our Brigade-4 in northern Shan State’s Nam Hpak Ka region was tortured after they captured him alive. They pinched a hole in his nose with a knife and put a nose ring [used on cows], then dragged him along in a village,” said La Na

The Burmese army has also reportedly been arresting people fleeing conflict zones in Kachin state and charging them with unlawful association.

Lahtaw Brang Shawng was arrested on 17 June and was tried in accordance with the law.

According to his attorney Marhka, Lahtaw Brang Shawng was severely tortured while incarcerated.

“He said he was losing hearing in his left ear and he seemed terrified,” said Marhka.

“He wasn’t allowed to see anyone initially after the arrest so he was feeling hopeless. It is a serious human rights violation to arrest someone and torture them for days to force a confession out of them.”

During a court hearing on 28 June, the judge discovered that the Lahtaw Brang Shawng had a recording device hidden under his clothing presumably so that the military would be able to monitor his testimony.

While reports of POWs and arrested civilans continue to surface, combat operations are said to be intensifying Kachin state, where unverified reports claim heavy fighting is erupting in Laja Yang near the KIA’s headquarters in Laiza.

Minister Aung Min and KIA leaders are tipped to hold another round of unofficial talks later this month following the reshuffling of the government’s paramount negotiating team in May that sought push out hardliners.

The government initially proposed to hold the meeting in Kachin state’s Bhamo, but the KIA turned down the request citing the intense fighting that is taking place in the region.

The KIA previously met twice with the Kachin State’s government led by Colonel Than Aung, three times with the Minister Aung Thaung’s led peace delegation and five times with Minister Aung Min’s delegation.

-Ko Htwe provided additional reporting.