Human rights groups called on Myanmar authorities on Tuesday to provide information about two Kachin Christian leaders they fear have been forcibly “disappeared” in northern Shan state for taking reporters to a Catholic church allegedly damaged by airstrikes in clashes between the government army and ethnic guerillas.
New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW), Southeast Asia-based Fortify Rights, and London-based Amnesty International want authorities to disclose the whereabouts and conditions of Langjaw Gam Seng, 35, and his cousin Dum Daw Nawng Lat, 65, both of whom have been missing since Dec. 24, 2016, when they were heading to a military base.
HRW and Fortify Rights also called on authorities to allow Yanghee Lee, the United Nations human rights envoy for Myanmar, and other rights monitors to visit conflict zones in Shan state. Lee, who is currently on a 12-day visit to Myanmar, has been denied access to violence-affected areas in Shan state.
Langjaw Gam Seng is a youth leader with the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC) in the town of Mong Ko in northern Shan state, and Dumdaw Nawng Lat, is an assistant pastor with the KBC, according to statements issued on Tuesday by HRW and Fortify Rights.
The Baptist-denominated evangelical organization headquartered in Myitkyina, Kachin state, has been helping internally displaced people who have fled fighting between the government army and ethnic militias in both Kachin and Shan states.
Someone claiming to be a member of Myanmar’s armed forces called Langjaw Gam Seng on the evening of Dec. 24 and requested that he and Dumdaw Nawng Lat go to the Byuha Gon military base in the town of Mong Ko in Muse township near the border with China to help with the release of detained civilians, according to the press releases.
Local residents reported last seeing the two men, who were helping reporters document the destruction of civilian structures in Mong Ko during hostilities between a coalition of four ethnic armies and government forces last in November and December, traveling by motorbike to the base where Myanmar army battalion numbers 99 and 55 are located, the statements said.
“The apparent enforced disappearance of these two Christian leaders has created a climate of fear and terror in northern Shan state,” said Matthew Smith, chief executive of Fortify Rights.
HRW and Fortify Rights noted that civil society organizations in Kachin and Shan states “have documented unlawful killings, torture, rape, forced labor, and other abuses committed by Burmese military forces against civilians” in the two states.
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Reported by Thiri Min Zin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.
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