Burmese soldiers confiscated church alms during Nhka Ga interrogation

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Written by Kachin News Group

Burmese government soldiers purportedly robbed the entire alms collection of Kachin Baptist Church in Nhka Ga village, where fighting between government forces and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has been ongoing since Aug. 28, according to aid workers stationed in the village.

The sources said that an estimated 1,000,000 Kyat (US$1,041) was confiscated by Burmese soldiers of Infantry Battalion No. 138, during an incident in early September that involved the detention and violent interrogation of both clergy and civilians.

At least two people were reportedly killed during the interrogation, and the head pastor is still recovering from injuries. Burma Army officials have admitted that the interrogation took place and that Rev. Ram Mai is now free, but there has been no formal admission of torture or killing.

An aid worker, after visiting Rev. Ram Mai on Thursday, told Kachin News Group that the victim's legs had been repeatedly "rolled over" with metal rods and bamboo shafts and that he cannot leave his bed.

The assistant pastor, Dingra Min Seng, remains missing several weeks after the episode.

Maj-Gen Tun Tun Naung of Burma Army Northern Regional Military Command conceded some details of the incident in a conference call with Dr. Hkalam Samsun, General Secretary of KBC on Wednesday. According to KBC representatives, Tun Tun Naung said that the detainees are now free and the situation in Nhka Ga has returned to normal.  

Villagers do not agree, say sources within the Putao church, who told Kachin News Group that those returning from weeks of hiding in nearby forests as a result of the August 28 conflict still fear interrogation and torture because government soldiers remain stationed within the village.

Aid workers claim that since the fighting began late last month, Burma Army soldiers have destroyed homes and confiscated personal property, leaving the village in a state of disrepair. An aid worker also reported seizure of a laptop computer and work-related documents.

Intermittent conflict has occurred in the area since Burma Army soldiers paired with a local militia led by Kachin businessman Ahdang (also known as Danggu Tang) to attack a KIA Battalion 7 post near Nhka Ga village on August 28. The conflict caused more than 100 villagers to seek refuge in the nearby forests between the Chyai Hka and Mali Hka rivers.

Local sources say that fighting has deescalated in recent days, but military presence is still a source of discomfort among the villagers.

Representatives of the KIO and the Union government met early this week to prepare for yet another round of peace talks scheduled for early October, during which both sides will aim to end the conflict that began after the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire in June 2011.

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