Another villager said the arrest of 16 civilians was preceded by a fatal landmine accident that killed two government troops.
A military column belonging to the government armed forces released 16 locals from Kyaukme Township, northern Shan State, on Wednesday after a Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) parliamentarian and community elders negotiated on their behalf.
Sai Tun Win, an SNLD state lawmaker, told SHAN that the Tatmadaw detained the villagers from August 5 until August 8.
“They said that they didn’t arrest those villagers but that they brought them with the military column during patrol because they were concerned about whether they supported rebels,” he told SHAN. “We promised that they were not connected to any rebellion and that they were just regular villagers. Then they released them.”
According to the SNLD’s Parliament Affairs Facebook page, Sai Tun Win negotiated with Col Aung Naing Htoo of the Tatmadaw and met the commander of the military column in person, who then released the civilians.
Eleven of the villagers were from Paingnim and five were from Eakgyi in Panglaw village tract in Kyaukme.
A local from the same village tract, Sai La, told SHAN that the villagers were initially arrested in Paingnim on August 5, then brought to Eakgyi on August 7, before finally being detained in Pang Kyam village in Haiqui village tract. He identified the military column as belonging to the Light Infantry Battalion 501 under Military Operation Command 1 based in Kyaukme Township.
He alleged that a fatal landmine blast led to the arrest of the locals.
“On that day, there were about 70 soldiers in the military column. Soldiers stepped on a landmine when they entered Paingnim village. Two soldiers were killed in the landmine blast. After that, soldiers arrested the villagers,” Sai La explained. “Even though most of the villagers were not tortured, soldiers kicked three of them,” he added.
It is not known which armed organization could have placed the landmine that caused the soldiers’ deaths. Government forces, the Kachin Independence Army, the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army, the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army, and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army all have a presence in the area.