Burma Army Forces Dozens of Shan State Civilians To Serve As Human Shields

Sunday, November 24, 2019

The Burma Army took more than 60 villagers into custody and ordered them to serve as human shields against mine attacks in northern Shan State’s Namhsan Township on Friday.

According to a local from the village of Mang Mai Mang Kwam in Hu Kheng village tract, government troops called a mandatory meeting in the community at 9:00 a.m. on November 22.

“The soldiers arrested all of the people,” the villager told NMG on the condition of anonymity, referring to the 42 women and 21 men who attended the meeting. “They arrested the villagers because they were afraid of mine attacks… Each villager had to follow in front of and behind a soldier as they traveled,” the Mang Mai Mang Kwam villager told NMG, adding, “they released the villagers once they were safe.”

Some of the locals were able to return to the village by 2:00 p.m. All were eventually allowed to return home. A village headman was allegedly beaten by soldiers during the incident.

Local people said that landmines had exploded in the area before they were taken into military custody and forced to walk in a vulnerable position ahead of the soldiers. The devices had reportedly gone off when the Burma Army shot heavy weapons into the area.

The Ta’ang Legal Aid group has spoken out against the endangerment of civilians in northern Shan State by armed organizations such as the Burma Army.

“They should not arrest innocent civilians in the clashes and take them as hostages. It is really bad, because they arrested women, students, and elderly people. We are strongly opposed to this,” Ta’ang Legal Aid’s Mai Myo Aung told NMG.

Maj Mai Aik Kyaw, who is in charge of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army’s (TNLA) information department, confirmed that his organization had multiple confrontations with the Burma Army in Namhsan Township on Friday. One occurred near Kaik Tai village from 6:00 a.m. until the evening and another broke out at the junction of Hu Kheng and Mang Mai Mang Kham villages at around 7:40 a.m.

“Two Burma Army helicopters launched an airstrike at around 2:00 p.m.,” he told NMG.

The office of the military’s commander-in-chief has yet to report about the fighting in Namhsan or the incident involving the endangerment of civilians in Mang Mai Mang Kham on its official website.

Human rights activists and civil society organizations in northern Shan State have called for a halt to the ongoing fighting in the region, and for an end to the human rights abuses perpetrated against civilians, so that peace can be pursued in the country.