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Between 50 and 60 civilians who were detained by Burmese government forces while en route to a wedding in northern Shan State are now being used as human shields at a command post in the town of Mongko, according to a local civil society group called Kachin Peace Network (KPN).
In a statement released yesterday, the KPN said more than 70 persons had been travelling by road to attend a wedding in the village of Hpaungpajun in Muse District on 20 November when they were stopped and questioned by Burmese soldiers.
Fighting had just that day broken out between Burmese government forces and an ethnic alliance of four armed groups – Kachin Independence Army (KIA), Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA), and Arakan Army (AAA) – which had launched coordinated attacks on Burmese military and police outposts.
The wedding guests were subsequently detained either on suspicion of being rebel sympathisers or having connections to the groups.
“The Tatmadaw [Burmese armed forces] are now holding the civilians at a hillside outpost in Mongko to prevent the rebels from attacking it,” said KPN spokesperson Yein Yaw. “Twenty-one guests who were Chinese nationals were immediately released the day after the abduction, and two ethnic Bamar detainees were freed on 25 November, but the rest are still being held in military custody at the base.”
The KPN further said in its statement that the Burmese army had been arbitrarily detaining civilians amid the 10 days of conflict, and called for the Tatmadaw to immediately release all civilian detainees.
Meanwhile, the Burmese government says that 14 lives have been lost and up to 50 people injured in 10 days of constant clashes between the government forces and armed ethnic groups in northern Shan State.
A state media report on Thursday said there were 14 deaths between 20 and 30 November – including 10 civilians and four members of the security forces. The ethnic coalition, which has now dubbed itself the “Northern Alliance“, is yet to release details about casualties.
The TNLA’s Mong Aik Kyaw, who is acting spokesperson for the Alliance, said clashes in the Muse district were continuing on 1 December.
“Clashes are continuing in and around the same towns where they originally started: in Mongko, Kyuhkok and Pangsang, as well as in an area between Pangsang and the 105-Mile Trade Zone, and along the highway connecting Kutkai to the trade zone,” he said.
The Alliance spokesman said that the most recent clash was reported close to 105-Mile Trade Zone around 6am on Thursday.