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Ta’ang NGOs accuse Shan army of human rights abuses

File photo of SSA-S soldiers on parade on Shan Resistance Day at their headquarters in Loi Taleng, February 2011. (PHOTO: Francis Wade)

Three ethnic Ta’ang organisations this week accused the Shan State Army-South (SSA-S) of maintaining a campaign of closing schools, detaining civilians and monks, recruiting locals as soldiers, and looting households in Ta’ang areas.

Speaking at a press conference in Rangoon this week, the three groups – Ta-ang Students and Youth Association; Ta-ang Women’s Organization; and Ta-ang Party – said that the SSA-S had broken Chapter 3, Article 9 of the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement – Protection of Civilians.

The SSA-S is one of eight signatories to the ceasefire accord – nine including the Burmese military – which it signed on 15 October last year under its official name: Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army, or RCSS.

Speaking to DVB after the press conference, group spokesperson Mai Se Ret said, “The RCSS has continued committing human rights abuses even after signing the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement. They have closed down a total of 55 schools, and driven out the teachers. And when eight Buddhist monks went to oversee the re-opening of a school, they were arrested and detained by the Shan army.”

He said that the eight monks had later been released after pleas from local people and the township monkhood.

Mai Se Ret added: “Also, the RCSS has been threatening to arrest and forcibly conscript into their ranks anyone who tries to move out of the area.”

However, when contacted by DVB by telephone, RCSS/SSA spokesman Col. Sai Leik rejected the accusations and said that all ethnic Ta’ang people, also known as the Palaung, were welcome “to come and discuss their problems with RCSS representatives”.

The SSA-S spokesman said, “We have already spoken to the Ta’ang Party about the opening of schools. We will even help by providing materials. Education should be promoted. But, before re-opening schools, they should come and talk with us because the schools are in our area of control and we want to avoid misunderstandings.

“As for the accusations of arbitrary detention, we need a list of names, with details and evidence. We will review any cases, and clear them transparently, step by step.

“We are always ready to resolve issues by peaceful means,” said the RCSS spokesman.

Asked about the allegations it had contravened the NCA, Col. Sai La said the accord was signed between the RCSS and the government; therefore the terms only apply to issues between those two parties.

Ever since the RCSS/SSA signed the NCA last year, relations have been tense between the Shan army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, which has bases in overlapping areas to the SSA-S. Those tensions boiled over in recent months and the two ethnic militias, formerly allies, have engaged in a spate of clashes with the Burmese military said to be backing the RCSS/SSA.