The wife of a government worker in the Kachin state capital of Myitkyina says she has not heard from her husband since Burmese troops detained him earlier this month over alleged links to the rebel Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Gum Sai was taken by soldiers on 5 January from Tar Law Gyi village, close to Myitkyina. His wife, Mar Kohn, claims he has been placed in greater danger since a fellow employee who was also detained to escape. She maintains he is innocent.
“Being a village administrator, he had to go whenever he was summoned, whether by the KIA or the Burmese army as we are afraid of them both,” she told DVB. “Now we don’t know why [the army] took him – they are not letting us see him or send him food.”
She added that the army had denied taking Gum Sai, and refused a visit by Tar Law Gyi village’s chief administrator, whom Gum Sai works for as an administrator.
Since December last year Mar Kohn had been sheltering in a refugee camp in Myitkyina along with their two children, one five and the other only seven months old. Like some 50,000 others in Kachin they had been forced from their home by fighting between the Burmese army and KIA.
Tar Law Gyi village was hit by artillery fire, she said, causing the majority of inhabitants to flee. She returned only upon hearing of her husband’s detention. “There’s no one left in my village now – just me and my younger child. I worry that he’s been killed or is being tortured. I am helpless,” she said.
Fighting continues in the northern state, which had been largely peaceful until Burmese troops launched attacks on the KIA in June last year, ending a 17-year ceasefire.
Gum Sai isn’t the only person to have disappeared after accusations of links to the KIA. Late last year a Kachin mother was taken by soldiers on similar grounds, prompting NGOs in the region to launch complaints.
Despite orders from President Thein Sein in December for the army not to launch attacks on the KIA, reports surfaced earlier this month that Burmese troops were amassing close to the group’s headquarters in Laiza. Heavy fighting had occurred in early January, and is believed to be continuing.