Burma: Watchdog wants probe into alleged torture, death of civilians in Shan State
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Burma: Watchdog wants probe into alleged torture, death of civilians in Shan State

A HUMAN rights watchdog on Monday demanded for an investigation into the alleged torture of dozens of civilians from a village in Burma’s (Myanmar’s) restive northern Shan State last week.

Fortify Rights, a Southeast Asia-based non-governmental organisation, claimed Burmese security forces arbitrarily detained and tortured the civilians. The group also said villagers made the discovery of a dead body of one of the men who had been taken by the military.

Fortify Rights Chief Executive Officer Matthew Smith said the authorities should immediately investigate the alleged violations and hold perpetrators accountable.

“The army continues to terrorise ethnic communities with torture, arbitrary detention, and unlawful killings while the civilian government fails to act,” he said in a statement.

In recent weeks, Burma’s military has engaged in deadly clashes with ethnic minority rebels in the northern Shan State.

The US state department and rights groups have also raised concern over the detention of three reporters by the military in the region.

SEE ALSO: Burma: Group demands release of journalists nabbed for covering ethnic militia’s event 

The journalists were taken into military custody in northern Shan State last Monday after covering a drug-burning event organised by the rebel Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which demands more autonomy for the Ta’ang ethnic group.

The journalists’ arrests come amid rising concern that media freedom is being trampled on in Burma despite a transition from full military rule, and underlines the challenge de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi faces in achieving peace.

Clashes between government troops and loosely allied rebel groups close to Burma’s border with China have set back peace talks prioritsed by Suu Kyi when she took power last year.

The army – known as the Tatmadaw – had clashed at least five times with insurgents since the army discovered a TNLA training camp on June 20.

Fortify Rights said following the latest clash, Burma’s Army Light Infantry Battalions (LIBs) 501 and 503 arbitrarily detained an estimated 250 civilians from Man Lan village, Namhsan Township in northern Shan State on June 24.

It said the security forces detained residents in a local monastery, separating men from women, and that most were held for five consecutive days.

Fortify Rights said it also documented how Burmese soldiers bound, beat and threatened civilians with death, accusing them of supporting the TNLA. The detainees were also said to have been deprived of adequate food, water, and access to toilet facilities.

SEE ALSO: Burma has released 67 child soldiers in first discharge of the year – UNICEF  

The 66-year-old mother of 32-year-old Kyaw Aung, the man whose body was found following the incident, told Fortify Rights that Burmese soldiers entered their home on June 25 and took them by force to the local monastery, where other residents were also detained.

A 51-year old Ta’ang woman interviewed by Fortify Rights said: “They took us like animals,”

Mai-Mai, a 27-year old Ta’ang man told the NGO that he witnessed the assault of Kyaw Aung by Burmese soldiers on June 25.

“They tied his arms with rope, and then they beat him a lot,” he said. “After that they took him away in a car, and after that we found his body between Nam Ling and Man Lan village. We found his corpse . . . He was bleeding a lot.”

When Man Lan residents discovered the body of Kyaw Aung on June 27, he was dead and covered with leaves.

Although Kyaw Aung had been wearing jeans and a T-shirt when Burmese Army soldiers arrested him, eyewitnesses who found his body said that he was wearing the uniform of a TNLA soldier, which is believed to be an attempt to justify the apparent killing, according to Fortify Rights.