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Myanmar: fear for safety / arbitrary detention: four men and six women from Tachilek, six other men

, N° d'index: ASA 16/005/1995

AI fears for the safety of a number of people recently rounded up by the Myanmar army to serve as porters during the on-going military offensive in the Shan state against the Mong Tai Army (MTA). Six men were taken as porters from the Akha village of Ban Gor Tai on 12 March 1995. A further four girls and one man are still missing. The other residents have fled. On 21 March, the Tatmadaw rounded up porters from the town of Tachilek. Up to 500 hundred porters are being used in the fighting around Tachilek and another 500 have been detained to act as porters around Mong Hsat.

EXTERNAL (for general distribution) AI Index: ASA 16/05/95
Distr: UA/SC
UA 75/95 Fear for Safety / Arbitary Detention 22 March 1995
Myanmar 4 men and 6 women from Tachilek
(formerly Burma) 6 other men
Amnesty International fears for the safety of a number of people recently rounded
up by the Myanmar army to serve as porters during the army's on-going offensive
in the Shan state against the Mong Tai Army (MTA).
On 12 March 1995 the Myanmar Army (the Tatmadaw) entered the Akha village of
Ban Gor Tai, and took six men as porters. A further four girls and one man
from the village are still missing. The other residents have since fled to
the Thai border to escape the Tatmadaw.
On 21 March the Tatmadaw rounded up porters from the town of Tachilek. The
army ordered the headman of each "quarter" (district) of Tachilek to provide
eight porters. Porters were taken from the quarters of Bong Tun, Ta Law, Wan
Kong, Mak Ka Ho Kam, Wan Seng Sai, Wan Ma Khaw, Long Luk, Fang Min, Mong Ko
and Mong Pong amongst others. In addition, other residents of Tachilek were
picked up at random by the Tatmadaw on the evening of 21 March, also to serve
as porters for the army. Up to 500 porters are being used by the Tatmadaw in
the fighting around Tachilek and another 500 have been detained to act as porters
around Mong Hsat.
On 20 March four young Shan women and six young Shan men were detained at the
Shan border town of Tachilek in connection with the MTA attack on Tatmadaw
positions in Tachilek that day. They are being held in the Military Intelligence
(MI) office in Tachilek. It is believed that these young people are innocent
civilians who are not involved with the MTA.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION
Over 100 people remain as refugees in the Tam Pha Chom temple in the Thai town
of Mai Sai, just over the border from Tachilek. Their houses were destroyed
by the Tatmadaw during the fighting with the MTA on 20 March. The army are
now claiming ownership of the land on which the houses stood and telling the
owners they will have to relocate. The refugees fear that if they return to
Tachilek they will be taken as porters by the Tatmadaw.
In mid-March the army of the State Law and Order Restoration Council (SLORC)
government of Myanmar launched an offensive against the MTA in the Shan state
in north east Myanmar. The MTA are calling for an independent Shan state. On
Monday 20 March the MTA launched an attack on army barracks and army guest
houses in the town of Tachilek; the MTA withdrew after an hour. Following this
attack at least five civilians were killed and 36 were injured by the Tatmadaw
as they destroyed houses and shot civilians while looking for remaining members
of the MTA. One man, who with his wife and baby daughter had been shot by the
army, stated "Burmese soldiers stormed my house to search for MTA soldiers
and shot everyone".
The MTA are one of the many ethnic groups who have been fighting for independence
from Myanmar for nearly 50 years. The MTA are one of the few ethnic groups
who have not signed a peace accord with the SLORC within the last two years.
2
In January the SLORC captured the headquarters of the Karen nationalist Karen
National Union (KNU) at Mannerplaw, which also served as a base for other
anti-SLORC groups.
There have been widespread reports of the Tatmadaw forcibly taking porters
from towns and villages close to areas where they are fighting ethnic insurgent
groups. Porters are made to carry heavy loads for the soldiers, often without
adequate food, water or medical attention. They are sometimes beaten or killed
by the army and if they collapse from exhaustion they are often left to die.
Female porters have also been raped by members of the Tatmadaw.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: Please send telegrams/telexes/faxes/express and airmail
letters either in English or in your own language:
- calling on the Myanmar authorities to immediately release any person being
held as a porter for the Myanmar armed forces and to end the practice of forcing
civilians to act as porters for the Tatmadaw;
- urging the Myanmar authorities to allow the refugees remaining in Tachilek
to return without fear of coming to any physical harm;
- urging the Myanmar authorities to release the four women and six men detained
in Tachilek on 20 March or charge them with a recognisable offense. Ensure
that they are not ill-treated in any way during their detention.
APPEALS TO
General Than Shwe, Chairman
State Law and Order Restoration Council
c/o Ministry of Defence
Signal Pagoda Road
Yangon
Union of Myanmar
Telegrams : General Than Shwe, Yangon Myanmar
Telexes: 21316
Salutaion: Dear General
Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, Secretary 1
State Law and Order Restoration Council
c/o Ministry of Defence
Signal Pagoda Road
Yangon
Union of Myanmar
Telegrams: Lieutenant General Khin Nyunt, Yangon, Myanmar
Fax: +95 12 29 50
Salutation: Dear General
COPIES OF YOUR APPEALS TO:
diplomatic representatives of Myanmar accredited to your country.
PLEASE SEND APPEALS IMMEDIATELY. Check with the International Secretariat,
or your section office, if sending appeals after 3 May 1995.

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