Two Kachin State civil servants who were detained by Kachin rebels on Saturday will be released today as they were “mistakenly arrested” during an operation to find defectors, a Myitkyina-based group said, adding that seven villagers were reportedly also apprehended by the rebels.
Government mouthpiece The New Light of Myanmar ran an article about the incident on Tuesday, saying that two staffers of the Kachin State General Administration Department and a civilian were “abducted by the Kachin Independence Army on Saturday morning.”
The men were reportedly arrested near the state capital Myitkyina while driving with a group of friends towards Myitsone, a village near the confluence of tributaries of the Irrawaddy River that is a popular tourist spot.
“Lower Division Clerk U Phyo Phyo and driver U Mon Kham Naw were riding ahead of others when they were stopped by six KIA [Kachin Independence Army] members in plainclothes,” the paper said, without mentioning the identity of the supposed third man who was apprehended. The paper added that the men were taken to Inkhaibum Mountain.
La Mai Gun Ja, a leader of the Myitkyina-based Kachin Peace Creation Group (PCG), which acts as a go-between for the KIA and state government, said the two civil servants would be released on Tuesday, as they were “mistakenly arrested” during a KIA operation to find deserters from its Battalion No. 4’s Brigade 1.
“They will be released today as it was a wrong detention,” said La Mai Gun Ja, adding that he spoke to local authorities and the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters about the incident. “As soon as the KIO headquarters learnt about it, they told their troop to release those two staff,” he said.
It remains unclear whether the third man reported detained was indeed arrested Saturday, or whether he would be released.
La Mai Gun Ja said he heard from local police that KIA members in plain clothes had been searching for defectors and also apprehended seven local civilians at Don Gun and Lon Gazwun Villages near Myitkyina, the same area where the officials were arrested.
“The KIO said if they are innocent they will soon be released,” he added.
Gen. Gun Maw, KIA deputy commander-in-chief, told The Irrawaddy by phone that he was unaware of the recent arrests of civilians by his troops.
“There must be a reason for the arrests, but I don’t know the exact reason as I am away from the headquarters,” he said. “I am sure that they were not arrested because they were government staff.”
On Saturday, in Kachin State’s Mansi Township, some 150 km further south, the Burma Army entered Lagat Yang camp for internally displaced Kachin civilians near Man Win Gyi town on the suspicion that seven KIA soldiers were hiding in the camp
Soldiers arrested 14 people in the camp, releasing all but one man the next morning.