Abduction Victims Secretly Flee Their Native Khaw Zar
November 25, 2014
In Khaw Zar Town, Ye Township, Mon State, the victims of a September 19th kidnapping have secretly fled from their native village; some having disappeared without a trace, according to a HURFOM local reporter.
At 7:40 pm on the evening of September 19, 2014, and unknown armed group, reportedly led by Nai Saung and Nai Loon, invaded Ward No. 1 of Khaw Zar and kidnapped U Shwe, the main supporter of the upper-Khaw Zar monastery, Nai Palai, the main supporter of the lower-Khaw Zar monastery, U Maung Myint, Daw Cherry, and Daw Win Tee. A young mother, Daw Win Thee was released by the group on September 20th, while the remaining four victims were forced to pay 10 million kyat for their release. U Shwe, Nai Palai, U Maung Myint, and Daw Cherry were released by the unknown armed group on October 13, 2014.
Since being released from abduction, the four victims of the September 19th kidnapping have been planning to flee from Khaw Zar Town due to frequent inquiries from the local army unit (Light Infantry Battalion No. 31) and authorities. After their release, the kidnapping victims were forced to endure many restrictions, including having to report to local authorities and request permission whenever they wanted to travel outside Khaw Zar Town.
According to a local source from the village security unit, Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 31 constantly questioned the kidnapping victims in order to gain detailed information of the armed group, and the amount of money the victims were forced to pay for their release. However, the questions the military asked and the manner in which they approached the victims likely exacerbated the already traumatized mental condition of the victims, according to friends of the victims.
“Since the day of the release, October 13, 2014, the adjutant of the local army unit, LIB No. 31, called Nai Palai to their army base for questioning at least seven times. They asked how much money [Nai Palai’s family] had to pay for his release, and why the victims did not report [the kidnapping] to the army unit.
“They also put a [travel] restriction on Nai Palai in which he has to report to the local army unit and township authority when he goes outside his town. Therefore, Nai Palai has been unhappy and [feeling] stressed. Nai Palai makes his living as a car driver, so the restriction of movement has a huge effect on his work. Nai Palai said the condition was very inconvenient, and he wanted to earn his livelihood peacefully after fleeing from his native home,” said a friend of Nai Palai who lives in Ward No. 1, under the condition of anonymity.
Daw Cherry, another victim of the kidnapping, has already moved to Ye City in order to escape the frequent inquiries by the local army unit and Khaw Zar security group, as well as the movement restrictions. A relative of Daw Cherry explained that since her release, travel restrictions have made it difficult to earn a living and conduct daily activities, and the demand that she make daily reports to LIB No. 31 were too heavy a burden, forcing her to flee Khaw Zar Town.
On October 7, under the condition of anonymity, one of Daw Cherry’s relatives in Khaw Zar explained the challenges that forced Daw Cherry and her family to flee Khaw Zar.
“She [Daw Cherry] was frequently called [by the army] for inquiry. The army asked detailed information about the kidnapping, and the process of paying for her release. They [Daw Chery and her husband Nai Htein Kin, aka Nai Linn] said they knew nothing. They didn’t want to answer those questions because they were worried about their security. Eventually, the couple moved to a ward in Ye City, in the last week of October. They didn’t share detailed information of their move with us, but it’s sure that they moved [to Ye] because they wanted to avoid military inquiry, the restriction of movement, and to find more security,” said the relative.
The decision to flee their home was a difficult one, as Daw Cherry and Nai Htein Lin owned a phone-service shop, an (illegal) money exchange, and a rubber plantation in Khaw Zar Town.
“We have two children who were [in] school in Khaw Zar, and they had to quit their schooling when we moved to Ye. It was such a relief to have relatives in Ye who provided us [with] a plot of land to stay [on],” said Daw Cherry.
“LIB No. 31 is located very near to Khaw Zar, however, instead of investigating the kidnapping, and providing better security to the locals, the army unit has disturbed the victims, applying restrictions on movement and demanding their regular reporting,” said Nai Ong Mon (not real name), a youth from Khaw Zar.
“The army unit must provide protection [to the locals]. Now, our region has no guarantee of security. After the kidnapping, worries increased dramatically amongst the villagers; they fear that their time will come. When investigating the victims, the army mainly focused on how much money they paid [the armed groups]. Reportedly, the victims had to pay 40 million kyat, but we don’t know the real amount of the payment, as the victims never spoke out.
“It seems that the army really wanted to know the facts. Previously, when the armed group demanded 10 million [kyat from the victims of a kidnapping], the army also demanded the same amount. The army believed that if [the villagers] are able to provide a payment to the rebel group, they are able to pay the army the same amount also. Even if the army unit is based near us, our security is not any better,” continued the youth.
According to local residents, the Khaw Zar Police Force and militia group have followed suit, applying travel restrictions, demanding regular reports, and failing to provide any support to the victims.
Regarding the kidnapping, Nai Hongsar, vice-chairman of the New Mon State Party (NMSP) said, “The troops of the NMSP have never been active in that area. The group [who kidnapped the villagers] has been active as a robber gang for a long time. We can’t fight and defeat them as they are active in the area [which is] controlled by the government army. The government must take full responsibility.”
In 2013, prior to the 100th birthday of the upper-Khaw Zar monastery’s abbot, the Mon splinter group led by Nai Soung and Nai Loon demanded 40 million kyat from Khaw Zar rubber and betel nut plantation owners, and other business persons in Khaw Zar, according to local residents. Following the incident, Township Administrator U Kyaw Moe, along with the commander of LIB No. 31, asked the victims about the payment, and extorted money from them as well, according to HURFOM’s local reporter.
“This kind of incident takes place frequently in this region, so the existence of the army unit is totally unnecessary. Kidnapping has repeatedly happened in this region, so locals suspect that the army unit [is involved in the kidnapping],” said a local 28-year-old.