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Two men in northern Shan State, who had been detained by the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), walked freed on Wednesday after two months in captivity, according to their village headman.
Aik Non and Aik Ki*, both said to be around 50 years of age and residents of Mongtat village in Namtu Township, were abducted by the TNLA in March for alleged connections to rival ethnic armed group Restoration Council of Shan State/ Shan State Army (RCSS/SSA).
Village headman Kawliya confirmed to DVB yesterday that the pair were released on Wednesday after the Ta’ang rebels concluded that they had no ties to the RCSS/SSA.
“The TNLA informed us that they were releasing the two men so we went to pick them up on motorbikes in a wooded area near the village of Mongpu,” he said. “Both had been made to sign a pledge not to have any contact with the RCSS.”
Kawliya said the pair appeared to be in good health, but were traumatised by their experience.
“They still looked scared,” he told DVB.
The two men were among some 90 civilians from the villages of Mongtat, Nawngsang, Mawtao and Mawnoi who were detained by the TNLA on 12 March, accused of having links to the RCSS/SSA, formerly known as the Shan State Army–South.
The following day, the TNLA released the 37 other residents from Mongtat, but continued to hold Aik Non and Aik Ki, as well as suspects from other villages.
Kawliya told DVB it was unclear how many villagers are still being detained by the TNLA.
Meanwhile, TNLA spokesperson Mong Aik Kyaw said he had no information about the two locals released on 11 May, but claimed the armed group previously detained no more than 10 villagers on suspicion of harbouring links to the RCSS/SSA, and that all of them have now been released.
“We did not arrest these villagers – however, there have been cases where we took some in for a couple nights for questioning concerning security matters,” said Mong Aik Kyaw. “Last year, we captured about 10 RCSS members in clashes. We released them all after they signed a pledge [not to have any contact with the RCSS].”
Villagers in northern Shan State have found themselves caught in the crossfire between the TNLA and RCSS since late 2015 when clashes broke out after the latter became a signatory to the Burmese government’s Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement.
*In the DVB report on 15 March, the two men were identified as Lon Sai Nwan and Lon Aik Gyi.