Four village headmen detained, beaten during interrogations in Tavoy

November 4, 2008

HURFOM: The Burmese Army has interrogated, beaten and detained at least four village headmen for failing to report movements of Karen rebels in Myit-Tar Sub-township, Tavoy district, Tenasserim Division.

On October 8th, an estimated 50 troops, led by Lieutenant Colonel Khin Maung Than, commander of Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 285 Column #1, entered Myay-Khan-Baw village tract in Myit-Tar. The commander immediately ordered troops to arrest four men from area Peace and Development Councils (PDC). According to an eyewitness from the area, Saw Dae, 35, the headmen were chosen arbitrarily.

The villagers who were detained are:

  • L. Doe, 35, ethnic Karen, Chairman of Kami village PDC
  • Dae’ Ne’, 38, ethnic Karen, Chairman of Gaung Say Chaung village PDC,
  • Saw Shee, 30, ethnic Karen, Chairman of Thabyut-Chaung village PDC
  • Par Han, 32, ethnic Karen, Chairman of Nyaung Tone village PDC

The prisoners were then taken to Myay-Khan-Baw village tract, where Column #1 is headquartered. “On October 9th, the troops who were ordered to arrest the village headmen returned to the Column #1 base. As soon as they arrived, the commander Lt. Col Khin Maung immediately called a security meeting with the Myay-Khan-Baw village PDC and some residents. In the meeting, he warned all people especially the village PDC crew that if they failed to report the activities of rebels in the area, they would be arrested like the four headmen,” said Saw Dae.

The four headmen were interrogated and kept in makeshift shackles, made of logs through which holes had been bored. According to a source from Kami village, the headmen were released on October 14th after signing an agreement promising to report rebel movements in the future. According to another source, from Myay-Khan Baw village, all four headmen looked as if they have been severely kicked and beaten with sticks or the butts of rifles.

The arrests and interrogation are thought to be related to a recent incident involving the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA). The KNLA is the armed wing of the Karen National Union, one of Burma’s largest insurgent groups and one of the few to have never signed a ceasefire with the junta.

“I think these arrests of village headmen are linked with a case from before. We heard that in early October, some soldiers from Column #1 found ICOM radio communication equipment, which is believed to have belonged to KNLA troops, on the road between Kami and Myay-Khan-Baw villages,” said a Karen resident from Myay-Khan-Baw. “The Burmese Army already strongly believed that there are many KNU or KNLA supporters around Kami, Nyaung Tone, Thabyut-Chaung and Gaung Say Chaung villages. That is why they want more information about rebels’ movements so they can make a military offensive against Karen rebels and clear the area.”

Arrests of civilians and allegations of sympathetic contact with armed groups like the KNLA or a Mon splinter group lead by Nai Chan Dein are common in Tavoy District. Especially common since the end of 2007, when the regime stepped up military operations in northern Yebyu Township and Tavoy District in an aggressive attempt to counter the insurgents. The offensive has not dislodged the rebels, but it has resulted in a slew of human rights abuses and the displacement of thousands of local residents, many of who have fled to the Thai-Burma border area.


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