A Shan rights group claims that the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) is still detaining 17 Red Shan villagers said to have been released on 20 December. According to the Shan Ethnic Affairs Organisation (SEAO), only four of the villagers have returned home, leaving the rest unaccounted for.
The Taileng (Red Shan) National Development Party (TNDP) accused the KIA in mid-December of forcibly conscripting the villagers to join the rebel army, which KIA officials denied. After pressure from the TNDP and Burmese authorities, the KIA released 26 of an alleged 51 detainees, according to a Bhamo district administrator.
At the time of their release, the SEAO identified only 21 of the 26 as being among the missing Red Shan. Weeks later, they claim that of those 21, only four returned to their homes – some children and two with disabilities.
“Of the 21 residents abducted from Mansi township’s Mangpa village, only four have been released – one of them was limp and another mentally disabled,” said Sai Htein Linn, chairman of the SEAO.
“The remaining 17 were sent to combat training at N’Bapa boot camp which belonged to the KIA north of Mansi town,” he added.
Sai Htain Linn said that more ethnic Shan villagers – mostly from Waingmaw, Shwegu, Mansi and Momauk towns – were forcibly recruited and are currently serving in the KIA. Many, he said, have reached out to the SEAO for assistance after hearing about their role in the mid-December discharge.
Dau Hka, coordinator of the KIA’s liaison office in Kachin State capital Myitkyina, told DVB on Tuesday that all villagers whose release was requested are now free.
“We have released all individuals from the list we received – I’m not completely clear who the individuals now in question are – we released all of them immediately,” he said, “but please check with our headquarters for the details. I don’t know much about it, because I sit in the Myitkyina office.”
Red Shan make up about 100,000 of the 1.2m population in Kachin state. The TNDP announced in late October that the party was conducting a region-wide survey to expose alleged human rights violations committed by the KIA against Red Shan people.
On 20 December, thousands of Shans gathered in Myitkyina denouncing alleged human rights violations by the KIA.