In the town of Hpakant, kidnappings are on the increase. Some residents say this is linked to the rise in illegal drug use and gambling, others accuse the regime of directly orchestrating the abductions or being lax in investigating these crimes in the township sharing the same name in Kachin State.
U Thein Lwin, the owner of Myoma Cafe in Mashi Kahtawng Ward, was kidnapped on 13 June while he was on his way to the barber shop. The kidnappers called his son and demanded 30 million kyat ($14,000) and 163 grams of gold. The son transferred 60 million kyat on the day the kidnappers demanded it, but he was still not released, friends close to his family said, and they asked for more money.
On 17 June, a man claiming to be a representative of Bo Saw Maung, the leader of the Pyusawhtee People’s Militia Force (PMF), demanded 1 million from U Zaw Gyi, the owner of the Naychi Seser Tea Shop. The PMF told the man, who lives in Mamong, if he is too scared to travel from his village to their camp in Hper Pyin, he can transfer 700,000 kyat with ‘Wave Money’.
Another PMF member under the regime demanded a grocery shop owner in Hper Pyin to transfer five million kyat on 19 June and threatened to kidnap him if he refused.
Another anonymous source, requesting anonymity, said the kidnappers were probably drug dealers or gamblers or even ordinary citizens posing as revolutionaries. “There are many gambling dens in Hpakant and they have increased dramatically after the military coup,” he said. The regime’s soldiers allow people to use illegal drugs and this has become a public menace.
Another anonymous source close to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) said an ethnic Chinese working with the regime is organising the kidnappings. He withdraws the ransom money in Mandalay in central Burma and in the border town of Tachilek in eastern Shan State. The source explained that gold dealers or gas station owners send money out of fear or ask the criminals to collect it from their shops.
“The Burma army wants to destroy Hpakant because the area with its rich jade deposits is an important source of income for the KIA,” he said.
U Aung Hein Min, former MP for Hpakant Township, said the junta has a responsibility to get to the bottom of the matter and investigate these crimes. “The military regime has declared to be a legal government, so they have to solve this problem.” The People’s Defence Forces are under the control of the KIA and are not allowed to do such things in the township, he remarked.
Military leaders, their family members and cronies have been getting rich off the jade and are using many different ways to gain full control of the precious resource in the township. These include offensives against the KIA and the PDF, arresting people who support the resistance groups or are against the regime, and turning a blind eye to the criminals in the area.