Troops arrest Kachin army porter

A man who was forcibly recruited by the Kachin Independence Army last year has become the subject of a complaint lodged with the government after he was arrested by Burmese troops in December for entering rebel territory.

Thein Myint, an ethnic Shan, was among more than 10 residents of Kachin state’s Talawgyi village who were forced to porter supplies and fight for the KIA in October last year. He was released after a week and a half, but in December Burmese soldiers detained him. A relative says he hasn’t been seen since.

His wife, Khin Myint, sent a letter to the Kachin state government on 8 February pleading for his release. His is known to have a problem with his eye, which has required surgery.

An official on duty at the Shan Ethnic Affairs Ministry in Myitkyina told DVB that Thein Myint had been charged under the Unlawful Association Act “for entering rebel territory” after his forced recruitment by the KIA. If found guilty he faces a maximum prison sentence of three years.

While the issue of forced recruitment by the Burmese army is well documented, fewer reports emerge of ethnic armies engaging in the practice. Some observers have said that a potential UN probe into war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Burma should include ethnic armies, who are known to have used child soldiers.

The case of Thein Myint is similar to one currently being brought to court in Naypyidaw, in which Burmese troops are accused of abducting a Kachin woman whom they claim had links to the KIA.

She has not been seen since she went missing on 28 October last year.

Abuse of civilians in Kachin state since fighting broke out is thought to have been rife: the Kachin Women’s Association of Thailand (KWAT) said late last year that it had documented nearly 40 cases of rape of Kachin women by Burmese troops, while reports of forced labour have been common.

But the government-backed National Human Rights Commission said this week that it would not be investigating reports of abuse of civilians in Burma’s ethnic regions anytime soon.

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