Residents of a Shan village in Namkham Township, northern Shan State, have fled their homes after the Burma Army harshly interrogated several villagers about the recent assassination of two military officers on a nearby road, local sources said on Friday.
Sai Aom Mong, a Namkham resident, told The Irrawaddy that he had heard that Noung Madar village was abandoned on Thursday.
“The village has about 120 houses and about 400 people fled from the village,” he said. “They told me that they have to flee from their village as security forces threatened their lives. Almost all people in the village fled, including five community leaders who were detained briefly for interrogation and beaten by the army.”
He said soldiers from 16th Battalion, Infantry Division 88 entered the village to question residents about the murder of two officers on a quiet road near Noung Madar, a village located about 2 km north of Namkham. On Tuesday, a commanding officer and a warrant officer were gunned down by unknown assailants on their way back from Namkham market to their base.
Village leaders were warned during interrogation that “the life of one officer is worth the lives of 100 villagers,” Sai Aom Mong said. He added that some villagers had fled across the nearby border into China, while others went to stay with their relatives or in Buddhist monasteries.
Sai Kyaw Ohn, a Shan Nationalities Democratic Party parliamentarian from Namkham Township, said, “I heard the people fled from their village, but I do not know yet how many families.” He added that he felt sympathy for the villagers who were forced to abandon their homes and farms in the middle of the busy rice-growing season.
No one has claimed responsibility for the assassination with the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) saying that the area of the attack is under control of the Shan State Army-North (SSA-North).
Namkham was reportedly the scene of another murder on July 23, when a young man was shot in the head in the town in the evening.
In recent months, northern Shan State has been the scene of frequent, deadly clashes between the TNLA, the SSA-North and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), as the ethnic conflict spills over from neighboring Kachin State.
Since April, fighting had been escalating in southern Kachin State, which borders Namkham Township, and several thousand civilians were displaced. Last week, some 800 Palaung minority villagers were newly displaced by fresh fighting in Namkham Township.