Around 3,000 people participated in the meal offering and praying ceremony for the people killed and captured by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in the Kachin State.
Led by the Myitkyina-based Shan Affairs group, the people marched one-mile from Wuntho monastery to Sutaungpyae Pagoda at 7 am yesterday.
Ethnic Shan people, who are family members of the people that have been killed or captured by the KIA, from Mohnyin, Moekaung, Hpakant, Hopin, Tsawlawgyi, Sinbo, Waingmaw, Khatcho, and Bhamo participated in the praying ceremony. Robes were offered to 20 monks in the morning as part of the merit-making for the deceased and prayed for the release of the captured people.
"The KIA extorts money from us. They say they're collecting tax. We can't accept this. We see this as bullying. Two hundred and thirty-four people have been captured up to now. We don't know the exact figure of the deceased. Next time your human rights have been breached or people have been wrongly captured, you can contact us," Sai Tun Yin, chairman of Shan Affairs group told the public.
Signatures of local residents have been collected at the ceremony and will be submitted to the government, the parliament, and respective government organisations, he added.
The Shan residents also share their experiences of their family members being killed or captured by the KIA. Most of them broke down in tears while they talked about their experiences.
"I have been working to earn my living ever since I resigned from the military. My son was killed. He was my eldest son, Pho Too. He was working as a mason. He was tied up with a rope in front of my four grandsons and was killed like killing a pig outside the village while I was away. My son was killed while the ceasefire talks were still being held. I want to say that no matter how much they discuss about ceasefire, it would not be accomplished if they don't want it in their hearts. I want to tell the government officials to discuss it decisively instead of holding a long discussion. We don't want gold. We don't want money. We want peace. They have been talking about this for a long time, but we still haven't experienced it yet. If there's no peace, we will continue to bear these burdens. I want to tell them to carry it out immediately," Tin Maung Tun from Hopin told the public.
Than Naing from Sinphyukyi village in Salingyi Township said his family members have been captured by the KIA and he heard that his son and nephew have been killed in November, 2013.
"I met with General Gwan Maw last summer. He told us to wait only two weeks and my family will be released. It's nearly a year now. I haven't heard any news," he told the Daily Eleven.
Ethnic Shan people residing in various states gathered on December 20, 2013 to stage a protest against the forced recruitment by the KIA, but the government did not allow them to stage the protest. On the same day, around 10,000 people from various places in the Kachin State gathered in Myitkyina to protest against the issue. An immediate proposal was submitted to the parliament over this issue.
Five types of Shan people - Tai Lon, Tai Sar, Tai Lai, Tai Khani, and Tai Lay - resides in the Kachin State and their population is estimated to be over 300,000, according to statistics from the government.