Shan locals imprisoned for 'insurgent links'

Nov 26, 2009 (DVB), Arrests of civilians in Shan state have reportedly intensified in recent weeks as the Burmese government looks to break perceived links between locals and rebel groups in the region.

Four people are currently standing trial in the southern Shan state townships of Siseng and Hopon.

Military authorities have accused them of having contact with the anti-junta Shan State Army-South (SSA-S), which now controls Siseng, and the Shan State Nationalities People’s Liberation Organisation (SSNPLO).

The government first launched a crackdown on local Shan after a senior member of the Burmese military was shot dead by an unidentified gunman early last year.

"This has been the way the [junta] has been treating the people of Shan state in recent times," said SSA-S spokesperson, Sai Lao Seng. "They accuse villagers of having contacts with rebels and oppress, arrest, torture and even kill them."

"The situation is particularly worse when there are clashes with armed groups. No one is solving this problem."

They four men are being charged with section 17/1 of the Illegal Organization Act, according to sources close to family members of the accused.

One of the defendants is reportedly a member of the pro-government Union Solidarity and Development Association (USDA), an organization widely tipped to play a key role in government affairs following elections in Burma next year.

The latest crackdown follows the recent imprisonment of seven Shan villagers who were also accused of having links to local insurgent groups. They were each given two year sentences.

Many civilians in the region have been forced to sign pledges asserting that they will not aid or abet ethnic groups opposing the ruling State Peace and Development Council (SPDC).

The threat of arrest and interrogation by military personnel, added to the numbers of people already imprisoned, has been an effective tool in coercing villagers to sign the pledges, locals said.

Reporting by Naw Say Phaw

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