Hundreds of police officers and soldiers arrested 31 young men from three villages in rural Sintgaing Township in Mandalay Region on Tuesday.
The troops travelled to Mon Pin, Kan Gyi and Ywar Bo villages in 10 military trucks and detained those they met on site.
The troops arrived in Mon Pin, around a one-hour drive from downtown Sintgaing, at around 6am and arrested around 25 people—mostly men in their 20s—after ransacking the village for an hour.
“They didn’t say what they were looking for. They were basically here for illegal portering,” a Mon Pin resident said, referring to the longtime military practice of forcing local men to carry goods, work as guides, or otherwise serve the army.
“Many fled the village. Those who were left were arrested,” the local said, adding that the young men who were detained were farmers and not involved in political activities.
Another local said that the mass arrests follow frequent raids on villages around Sintgaing, carried out since an alleged military informant was shot and killed in July by anti-junta resistance forces.
“I think they were looking for members of the local People’s Defence Force [PDF] but the people who were arrested were just civilians,” he said. “This is just an absurd display of power. They arrested those people out of frustration because they haven’t been able to catch the PDF members. Their superiors have been putting pressure on them.”
Three young men from Kan Gyi village and another three from Ywar Bo village were also arrested by Myanmar army soldiers on the same day.
The families of the men did not know where they had been taken at the time of reporting, and were worried for their safety.
The Sintgaing PDF told Myanmar Now by phone that the 31 men were not members of their resistance group.
“They just randomly arrested the villagers so that they wouldn’t be harassed by their superiors. It’s really bad that innocent villagers are being headhunted like this,” the Sintgaing PDF spokesperson said.
The practice of arresting and interrogating locals over the accusation that they are affiliated with the PDF has been occurring nationwide.
A soldier was shot dead by the PDF near the airport in Mandalay’s Tada-U Township on July 6, prompting the military to raid a tea shop in neighbouring Sintgaing on the same day.
The military arrested seven people from the tea shop, including two children aged 12 and 15, and charged them with violating Sections 5 and 6 of the colonial-era Explosives Substances Act after allegedly finding explosives in a hut near the shop. The charges, for creating or possessing explosives and for being an accessory to the crime of doing so, each carry a prison sentence of five to 14 years.
The Sintgaing PDF told Myanmar Now that the explosives in question belonged to the armed group and had nothing to do with the family from the tea shop.
Source: Myanmar Now