The Shan State Army (SSA) North ordered two Burma Army men, one a captain, after it was informed civilians taken by the Burma Army would be freed in return, said a senior SSA official yesterday.
The officer, who asked anonymity, identified the Burma Army officer as Captain Thet Soe from Laogai-based Light Infantry Battalion 322 (another meanwhile says it was Namtu-based LID 324). He was traveling from Lashio to Namtu with an unidentified private on 31 August, when they were stopped on the way and taken by a group of armed men before reaching Manzam, 30 miles west of Lashio.
The said SSA force had refused to release the two hostages unless Burmese military authorities agreed to free the civilians detained by the Burma Army earlier.
There were at least 4 of them, according to the locals:
- Sai Kyaw Aye, Piang Htawn village
- Sai Htwe Nyunt, Nam Pai village
- Sai La, Piang Long village
- Sai Teng, Piang Long village
Villagers say Sai La and Sai Teng were tortured until they were unable to walk and their eyes protruded. They were seen being thrown on the back of a military truck by the soldiers. “The two were not moving at all,” said one. “So I fear they are already dead.”
The fighting between the Burma Army on the one side and the SSA and its allies Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and Ta-ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) on the other had forced more than 1,000 Palaung villagers in Namtu and its neighboring townships: Mantong, Namhsan and Kutkhai to flee, Norway-based Democratic Voice of Burma reported on 4 September.
Fighting between the Burma Army and the two SSAs, North and South, has continued despite ceasefire agreements reached in December (with the SSA South) and in January (with the SSA North).
“Northern Shan State, especially north of the Mandalay-Lashio highway has become sort of a free-for-all area to the Burma army,” commented SSA South’s Brig Gen Pawng Kherh, who has led several rounds of peace talks with Naypyitaw.
China supported oil and gas pipelines that begin in the Arakan coast in the southwest are passing through the said area. So far there has been no reports of negotiations taking place between the belligerents on the safe and timely completion of the project in 2013.
This was not the first time the Shans had taken hostages to free their associates. In 1973, the Shanland United Army (SUA) had kidnapped two Russian doctors in Taunggyi to demand (successfully) the release of its detained leader Khun Sa.