The Burma army has detained up to 40 men and women residing along the banks of the Irrawaddy River in Shwegu Township.
On 8 August, at approximately 8 am, over 30 Burma army soldiers, utilizing two motorboats, arrived at Nga Pouk Wa in the northern part of the township. They proceeded to arrest the residents from the village and also from Shwegulay and Shwebontha.
“They reached the villages in the morning, rounding up people and taking them into custody using the two motorboats,” a local told KNG on condition of anonymity.
An anonymous political activist from Shwegu town indicated that the Burma army intends to force the detainees to board 9 military vessels transporting a full complement of weapons and food rations that departed from Mandalay port on 26 July to Bhamo. “They will be used as human shields,” the activist said, explaining the prisoners were taken to Shwegu town where the flotilla is currently moored and due to depart soon.
Another local source affiliated with the Shwegu People’s Defense Force (PDF), a group fighting the regime, emphasized that the Military Council will certainly keep the detainees during the journey of military vessels. “Having suffered numerous casualties during clashes with resistance groups, they intend to use these villagers as human shields when traversing from Shwegu to Bhamo. If further casualties are incurred, more locals are likely to be arrested. Resistance groups targeted the military vessels with heavy weaponry yesterday, although no hits were reported.”
However, the Military Council sustained casualties during previous attacks on the flotilla by other PDFs as they traversed the Irrawaddy River. Consequently, soldiers forced over 50 inmates from Htigyaing Prison to be human shields during the journey between Htiguaing and Katha. Upon arrival at the port in Katha, these prisoners were sent to the local prison.
Recently, the flotilla fired artillery at villages in western Shwegu Township a day before mooring in the town sharing the same name, causing many civilians to flee their homes.
The Burma army has altered its supply strategy, turning to waterways for the transportation of essential resources such as food, weapons, and military equipment to Kachin State. This move comes as a response to the growing frequency of resistance groups targeting army convoys on land routes.