The Shan National League for Democracy (SNLD) has said it has been waiting for more than a week for a government response regarding the arrest and alleged beating of a party member by the Burma Army.
SNLD spokesman Sai Nyunt Lwin said his party contacted the government’s Union Peace Making Committee (UPWC) on May 12 to request its help in resolving the case of Ai Kyein, a chairman of a village-level SNLD branch in Kengtung Township, Shan State, who was arrested on May 5 and allegedly beaten by the Burma Army.
“We have informed the UPWC, which is led by the President’s Office Minister U Aung Min last Monday, but received no response from them,” he said. “The military’s detention of our member is against the law as the area is not under conflict.”
The military accused Ai Kyein of possessing a gun and communicating with the Shan State Army-South, a military wing of the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS), although no weapon was found, according to the SNLD.
An official at the government-affiliated Myanmar Peace Center said the arrest of the SNLD member was discussed in the UPWC and Aung Min was aware of the complaint. “We have been in contact with the SNLD leader Khun Htun Oo,” he said. “The issue is still under discussion and I can’t tell you more right now. Wait a few days.”
The army handed Ai Kyein over to Kengtung police after several days and the police said they were investigating whether he will be charged with the Unlawful Associations Act Article 17.1, which sets a minimum prison sentence of 2 years for aiding or having contact with “an unlawful association.”
His 14-day remand is due to end Friday and police will then have to decide whether or not to officially charge him.
Due to the alleged beatings Ai Kyein’s health has deteriorated, said Sai Lone, a local SNLD leader in Mai Kham, who met him at the Kengtung Prison on Monday.
The SNLD has said the arrest threatens to undermine trust-building efforts between the government and ethnic armed groups, such as the RCSS, during the current nationwide ceasefire negotiations.
The party also said it was inappropriate to arrest ethnic politicians for supposed contact with the RCSS, since it has a bilateral ceasefire with the government for more than two years. Sai Lone noted that the RCSS Liaison Office in Kengtung had also been raided by the Burma Army in the same week as they arrest of Ai Kyein.
“We are worried that these actions could lead to a collapse of the peace process,” added Sai Lone.