Saturday, October 5, 2013

Burma army kills Kachin civilians in Putao district as others barred from fleeing

Three villagers including an assistant pastor were killed in northern Kachin state's Putao district last month after they were detained by soldiers from Infantry Battalions No. 137, according to Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) officials.

Assistant pastor Hkaw Duk, 20-year old Yung Hka Khin and a third man were killed some time after they were detained in Nhka Ga village in early September. Eight other men from the same village including the village Reverend Ram Mai were tortured in the local church compound before being released, according to KBC officials who recently visited Nhka Ga village on an aid mission. The pastor was personally interrogated by the commander of IB No. 137apparently after troops found a hunting rifle in his home.

During a meeting with the head of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) last month, Maj-Gen Tun Tun Naung, commander of Burma Army’s Northern Regional Military Command conceded that men under his command detained Rev. Ram Mai. He did not however admit that the torture took place.

A small group of KBC officials were allowed to visit Nhka Ga village for a two day aid mission beginning Sept 26. They found that all the remaining residents have been barred from leaving the village by the occupying military forces. Church officials fear that the remaining 53 people in the village are being kept there in order prevent the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) from launching a counterattack. After fighting broke out in the area in late August a large number of villagers fled Nhka Ga for the KIA battalion 7 headquarters near Thing Nan village in Sumprabum township, but no one was able to leave the village after the military declared residents were forbidden from doing so.

Government troops also seized national registration cards (NRC) and family unit documents from each household in order to prevent them from leaving, said Rev. Lama Yaw who took part in the short aid visit to the village. The visit was made possible after lengthy negotiations with the military.

Reverend Lama Yaw and his team urged the Burma military units occupying Nhka to allow 14 sick villagers to leave in order to seek medical attention in Putao town. This request was refused by the head of the Putao Military Strategic Command, Rev. Lama Yaw told the Kachin News Group (KNG).

Since fighting broke out very near to the village last month KBC officials have repeatedly requested that the military allow the Nhka Ga villagers to be evacuated to the nearby government-controlled village of Nawng Hkai. These requests have so far been rejected by the Putato based commander for the region Tun Tun Naung, Rev. Lama Yaw said.

Rev. Lam Yaw says he remains very concerned that the 53 villagers are being used as human shields.

Burma army sending more troops to Nhka Ga

Over the past few days the Burma army has been sending more troops, rations and weapons to the Nhka Ga area by both air and land. The military has been airlifting some of the supplies using Chinese Y-8 transport planes, say local residents. There are now more than 200 troops deployed in Nhka Ga village, according to an eyewitness who spoke to KNG on condition of anonymity.

On September 28th a military convoy consisting of vehicles from Light Infantry Division No. 33 arrived at Sumpyi Yang village located on the Myitkyina-Putao highway. The convoy entered into nearby forests the next day, according to eyewitnesses. The government controlled town of Sumpyi Yang is close to Nhka Ga and separated by the Mali Hka river.

According to government personnel in Putao, the Asia World company controlled by the family of the late drug lord Lo Hsing Han has also recently applied to get land in Putaor district. Asia World appears to be following a firm controlled by Tay Za who has also applied for a large mining permit in three townships in Putao district, in Putao, Machyangbaw and Nawng Mong townships.

Late last year Tay Za and his firm Htoo Trading submitted a request for 600,000 acres of land in the Putao district, according to source who saw the Tay Za's submission to the government.

Residents in Putao tell KNG that Burmese government troops and a local based pro-government Rawang militia led by Ahdang (also known as Danggu Tang) have been engaged in a military offensive against KIA battalion 7 in order to conquer land for Tay Za.