Burma Army Tortures Civilians and Pa-Oh Rangers Block Human Trafficking Attempt
10 January 2019
Shan State, Burma
The Free Burma Rangers’ Pa-Oh team, which operates in southern Shan State, conducted two missions last year, with their June/July mission being of particular note. Not only did the team provide valuable medical services and hygiene supplies to some of the poorest and most rural parts of Burma, they also broke up a human smuggling ring and documented crimes committed by the Burma Army against local civilians.
On 8 May 2018, a brief clash broke out between the Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South’s (RCSS/SSA-S) 362 Battalion and the Burma Army near Mike Ta Say Village in the Kagugyi area, Mawkmai Township, during which a Burma Army medic was killed. Though having no evidence, the Burma Army then seems to have made the assumption that the local villagers were involved in collaborating with the RCSS/SSA-S ambush.
On 10 May 2018, Khun Mg Loi, the headman of Mike Ta Say Village, was resting with several other villagers after searching for missing livestock. The men were surrounded by Burma Army troops, who fired their weapons to intimidate the villagers and then proceeded to abuse and beat them.
The soldiers accused Khun Mg Loi of passing information onto the RCSS/SSA-S and two other men, Sai Hla Sein of Kong Lwan Village and Khun Htun Naing from Pong Soke Village, of being rebels. The three men were taken to a nearby compound, tied up, and beaten. The torture culminated in the soldiers cutting off one of Khun Mg Loi’s ears.
The troops ultimately released the men but threatened to kill them if they spoke of it. To his credit, the local area leader reported the incident to the local Joint Monitoring Committee and had the men sent to Maukmai hospital for treatment. It was then brought to the attention of the FBR team while they were performing their mission.
The summer relief mission itself ran for six weeks, during which time the FBR team, working in conjunction with the Pa-Oh Health Working Committee (PHWC), treated 439 people for various illnesses, 95 of them children under the age of five. The team hosted Good Life Clubs to 397 people in various villages, providing them with food, soap, toothpaste, and brushes. They also conducted health education classes, focusing primarily on the importance of hygiene in disease prevention, for 299 people in 15 different villages.
It was while performing these relief missions in June that the FBR team received an appeal for help. Five villagers from Hti Han Khree were being smuggled to China on the promise of work. However, it seems they had been duped and were destined for use as slave labor. One of the men, who was Pa-Oh, managed to send out a call for help, which was brought to the attention of the FBR team.
Working in conjunction with the local Pa-Oh authority the team was able to intercept the traffickers, free the villagers and see them back to their home village safely. With that job complete, the team resumed their mission and continued providing medical support and hygiene training to the villages on their route.
A Pa-Oh Ranger checks medical supplies during their mission.