Regime Detains Catholic Leaders In Southern Shan State

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By Kantarawaddy Times

The regime’s armed forces arrested Catholic monks at a checkpoint as they were on their way to help people displaced by the conflict in southern Shan State.

Another Catholic monk, who spoke to Kantarawaddy Times on condition that his name not be mentioned, said Fr John Paul Lwel and Fr John Bosco were detained by the soldiers on Monday after they travelled together from the Shan State capital, Taunggyi, to help people affected by the fighting in Pekon Township.

“Burma Army (BA) soldiers and members of the Pa-O National Organisation, a militia under the army, checked their cell phones at a military checkpoint and found a photo of the PDF (People’s Defence Force).”

In Shan and Karenni states and throughout Burma, various groups of the PDF are fighting against the BA.

At press time, the Kantarawaddy Times couldn’t identify the two other adults driving two of the four vehicles the religious leaders traveled in or the two children who were also taken. The military has impounded all the vehicles.

“The monks were on their way to help the IDPs (internally displaced persons). I don’t think they were concerned about anything else, including the PDFs,” said a source on condition that her name not be published.

According to another Catholic monk, church leaders and Save the Children are currently trying to negotiate their release. “The soldiers shouldn’t arrest the monks. They aren’t politicians: they help people in need who’re suffering, it’s the same with all religions. The soldiers are arresting people without a reason. There are photos of PDF everywhere and it’s easy to find them online. What’s so bad about one of the monks having one stored in his phone?”

According to the Karenni Civil Society Network, the regime has arrested 268 civilians in Karenni State since the coup until 16 February.

The BA attacked PDFs and civilians with jet fighters, tanks, artillery fire and ground troops during a massive offensive that began last week in the Mobye area of Pekon Township, creating thousands of new IDPs in desperate need of humanitarian assistance.

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