Myanmar authorities on Tuesday arrested 17 Chinese nationals posing as policemen and carrying fake guns in the Kokang region of northern Shan state, a police official said, raising questions as to whether they were involved in illegal activities targeting Chinese tourists in the border area.
The Chinese citizens, believed to have entered Myanmar illegally, were apprehended in the Kokang capital Laukkai near the China-Myanmar border, said Zaw Khin Aung, chief of the Shan state police force.
“We got 17 of them in total,” he told RFA’s Myanmar Service.. “We will check the status of the rest of them with immigration authorities.”
“Five of them have been charged with impersonating police officers,” he said. “They even possessed police accessories like handcuffs.”
Authorities made the arrests after they received tips that Chinese nationals wearing police uniforms were in the area northeast of Laukkai town, the police chief said.
They found on the Chinese nationals two police uniforms, a bulletproof vest, two fake pistols made of fiber, and another fake gun that resembled an M22 pistol, he said.
The members of group have been charged under Section 170 of Myanmar’s Penal Code for impersonating public servants, Zaw Khin Aung said.
Aung Naing Swe, the information officer at the Chinese Embassy in Yangon, told RFA that the embassy was not aware of the arrests.
“We don’t have any information about this,” he said. “We haven’t heard anything about it.”
Myanmar’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs usually informs the Chinese Embassy when Chinese nationals are arrested in the country.
Local sources told RFA that Chinese nationals who enter Myanmar illegally could be posing as police officers to extort money from other Chinese who also are in the Kokang region illegally.
A large number of Chinese nationals pay daily visits to the Kokang region, where the common language is Mandarin Chinese.
China is believed by security experts to be the direct or indirect source of weapons for some of the ethnic armies fighting the Myanmar government, including the ethnic Kokang Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) in Shan state.
Village official shot dead
In northern Shan state’s Lashio township, meanwhile, an unknown gunman assassinated a village administrator Tuesday morning while the official was at his farmhouse with his family, a local police officer said.
Police are now looking for the person who shot Mar Ku, the 60-year-old ethnic Lahu administrator of Mankaung village in Lashio’s Narkunlong village tract, said police captain Myint Kyaw from Lashio No. 1 Police Station.
“We are trying to identify the suspect,” he told RFA. “The gunman called [Mar Ku] from outside the house and spoke in the Lahu dialect. As he came out, he was shot and died on the spot. The gunman then fled.”
Mar Ku was shot six times in the head, chest, neck, and hip, police said.
Through interviews with village residents, police learned that Mar Ku owned a small business and had been entangled in financial problems, Myint Kyaw said.
Local witnesses said the shooter had coerced an ethnic Lahu man from Mankaung village to show him where the villager administrator lived, and shot dead both the man and Mar Ku.
Villagers told RFA that Mar Ku had shown personal animosity toward a member of an armed group.
One resident also said a local man who resented Mar Ku had made death threats against him and had joined an armed group about two weeks ago.
But the man had recently defected from the group, said the resident who declined to be named out of fear for his safety.
“The village head was in the house with his daughter and son-in-law,” the man said. “The assailant was posing as a local official to lure him out.”
Mankaung village, located on Namtu-Lashio Road about 13 miles from Lashio town, is difficult to access, according to volunteers from a local humanitarian group who went to the area to transport Mar Ku’s body to Lashio Hospital on foot.
Several ethnic armed groups, including the Shan State Progress Party/Shan State Army-North (SSPP), Restoration Council of Shan State/Shan State Army-South (RCSS), and Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), as well as local militias and government military troops are active in the region where Mankaung village is located.
Reported by Kyaw Lwin Oo and Kan Thar for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.