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TNLA releases 11 villagers from custody

FILE PHOTO: TNLA soldiers on parade in northern Shan State. (Photo: TNLA)

The Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) on Monday released 11 local villagers, whom it had detained in northern Shan State’s Kyaukme Township for nearly a month, accused of having links with a rival armed group.

Kawliya, the headman of the detainees’ home village, Mongtat, said the TNLA released the 11 villagers on the evening on 12 December after each had signed a pledge, vowing they had no affiliation with the Shan State Army- South.

“On Monday, we went to meet with the TNLA officials,” he told DVB. “Local community leaders also joined the meeting. The TNLA released the villagers after they signed an agreement, vowing that they had no affiliation with the Shan militia. Eleven detainees were released – 10 Mongtat residents and one from Hona village. However, a Palaung youth named Sai Aik Ai was not released.”

He said the freed men claimed they were beaten by the Ta’ang [Palaung] rebels while in captivity, but appeared in good health when they were released.

The 12 had been taken captive by the TNLA on 20 November while they had been working in a cornfield outside Mongtat village.

A member of the local Conflict Alleviation Committee said he believed that the TNLA still held 20 or more villagers in their custody.

Reports that 24 residents from the village of Pan Kwan were abducted by the TNLA on 10 December have not been confirmed.

TNLA spokesman Ta Aik Kyaw said, “Between 20 and 23 November, we engaged in clashes with the RCSS [Shan State Army- South] in Mangton Township. During the skirmishes, we detained some local informants and decided to hold them in captivity while the fighting continued. Now that the hostilities have simmered down, we have returned the detainees to their families and village elders.

Ta Aik Kyaw rejected the allegations that his group had also adducted villagers from Pan Kwan.

“As for recruitment, we don’t take anyone who is not Palaung,” the TNLA spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD) has released a statement, demanding the TNLA release 36 residents from Pan Kwan village, including five local SNLD party members.

The TNLA is one of four ethnic militias that has recently been categorised as a “terrorist organisation” by the Shan State regional assembly. The others are: Kachin Independence Army, Arakan Army and Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army. Collectively the four call themselves the Northern Alliance, and have engaged in fierce hostilities against Burmese government forces in northern Shan State since 20 November.