Tuesday, 8 July 2008

Villages deserted as residents flee to border to escape military persecution

By Hseng Khio Fah
Shan Herald Agency for News

Long Keng village in Mong Pan township, southern Shan State, became deserted when villagers fled to border after some of them were detained and tortured and some disappeared as the military accused them of killing their members one month ago, reported SHAN correspondent from southern Shan State.

On the following day of the May 10 referendum at 22:00, a sergeant and two soldiers from Mong Pan-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 385, which is under the command of Lt-Col Kyaw Han, were shot at the vegetable garden of a Hophai villager while taking the vegetables without telling its owner. The sergeant was shot at his chest twice and died instantly while the other two escaped unscathed, according to Long Keng village secretary, who escaped to the border.

“The three were on duty to provide security of the farm owned by Sai Ni.”

At the end of April, Mong Pan Area Commander , Lt. Col. Kyaw Than, and Chairman of Mong Pan Township Peace and Development Council, Sai Zam Win, confiscated some 12 acres of farm owned by 12 farmers in Mong Pan and planted summer paddy seeds for the LIB 520, LIB 332 and LIB 385. Three soldiers from each battalion had been assigned to provide security for the paddy field.

The dead body was taken to Mong Pan hospital. The checkup found that he was shot by handmade bullets made of lead.

As soon as the authorities learned the news, they went to arrest the farm owner Sai Ni,45, his wife Nang Poi, 30, and his son Sai Kham ,18, on 12 May at 10:00. They were accused of planning to kill its members and of being spies of Shan State Army (SSA). The family was beaten during the interrogation, the source said. But the family just answered they did not know who the gunmen were.

Nang Poi and son were released on 14 May except for Sai Ni. In the evening of 16 May the authorities went to arrest all the farmers whose land they had seized and took them to the LIB 520 command post but some were able to escape. Those detained were Long Keng village headman Zarm Hsa, Sai Nu, Sai Kham (Sai Ni’s son), Ai Di, Ai Kya and Zingna. They all were beaten and tortured everyday and later were moved to the LIB 332.

Again on 19 May, the authorities went to detain Ai Mart and Kungna from Long Keng. Also detained were the Kong Kieng tract headman, the village headman and the secretary. All were taken to the LIB 332 command post. Since then the families have to send the meals day and night.

Sai Ni, Sai Kham and Ai Di, 46, reportedly were not seen on 7 June when the family went to send the meal and asked to see them. But the authorities would not show them. They [authorities] just told to the family that “the three are already full. We feed them very well. But they did mistakes that were unforgiveable, so we will keep them with us,” according to a relative of the victims. “It means they [authorities] have already killed them if they can’t show us.”

The remaining 8 detainees were taken on the truck to move to the police station west of the town. However, Kung Na ran away on the way and was able to escape from the fire of the authorities. The rest were detained at the police station.

Until now, there has been no information about them whether they will be released or not. Likewise, no information of the three people who had disappeared has been no reported.

“Whenever we went to ask about the disappeared people, they [authorities] just always tell us they are alive and well but they never let us see them,” said a relative of the victims. “When we asked other soldiers, they said they had not seen the three.”

Since the event had taken place, the authorities went to take properties from the villagers and always cause trouble for the villagers in many ways. The villagers were afraid to stay in the village and some moved to the town. Others fled to the Thai-Burma border on 15 June by motorbikes and some by cars, according to the Long Keng village secretary.

There are 45 households in Long Keng village but it seems to be empty, said the secretary.

22 villagers from Long Keng fled to Fang district where the Thai authorities recently raided and 19 people were detained.

The new arrivals are now forced to stay in hiding because they have no official documents allowing them to stay in Thailand and have no paying jobs to feed themselves, according to a local villager of Fang.

“More are still on their way to the border,” said a villager who is currently seeking asylum at Fang on the Thai-Burma border. “We were not happy staying there anymore, so we decided to come here.”

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