Troops beat and arrest 7 people in a Kachin state tea shop

Army troops have arrested seven people who were using the internet in a tea shop in Myanmar’s northernmost Kachin state as the military tightens its curfew on a township with a strong ethnic militia presence.

Around 20 soldiers entered the shop on Tuesday night and started beating the owner, his wife and daughter, and four people who were drinking tea there. All seven were taken into custody, according to a Hpakant town resident who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisals.

“The shop was about to close when the troops came in a car and arrested them,” said the local. “Someone told them the daughter was sharing political posts on Facebook.”

The local said the family who owned the Shu Daung Thit Tea Shop were Soe Naing; his wife Nan Kyin; and their daughter Shoon Lae Soe. The four customers have not been identified.

He told RFA the family had been selling tea in Hpakant for almost 30 years and described them as honest people. He said he didn’t know where the troops had taken them.

It’s believed the raid was sparked by fighting between junta troops and Kachin Independence Army joint forces, which broke out the previous morning near a police station in Hpakant.

Locals said a 40-year-old woman called Khin Ma and her 10-year-old daughter, Moe Pwint Phyu, were hit by bullets during the battle, although it's not clear which side fired them.

“Both mother and daughter’s injuries are not serious,” said a woman who also declined to be named.

“It would be better if they were treated in Myitkyina [township’s] hospital but they had to go to the Hpakant hospital as they were afraid of fighting on the way.”

The local said the junta had been firing heavy artillery on Hpakant town in recent weeks and arresting many civilians.

Hpakant is a center for gold and jade production in Myanmar and home to many businesspeople, traders and miners. It has also attracted a lot of Chinese investors who are believed to pay “taxes” to the ethnic Kachin militia in order to operate mines safely.

The junta issued a curfew in Hpakant town shortly after it staged a coup in Feb. 2021 and has started enforcing it strictly this year. RFA data show that troops arrested nearly 200 civilians in the town and nearby villages this month and are still holding 40 of them.

RFA called Win Ye Tun, the junta spokesman for Kachin state seeking comments on the arrest but no one answered.

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