Abbot Killed by Gunmen Amid Tax Dispute in Myanmar’s Shan State

By Lawi Weng & May Sitt Paing 22 October 2019

YANGON—Khay Nin Sayadaw, the abbot of Khaynin Village Monastery in Lashio, northern Shan State, was shot dead on Sunday evening at his monastery. The abbot also went by the name Bhaddanta Pinna Jotika.

“The abbot was an ethnic Palaung,” Shan State police chief Brigadier General Zaw Khin Aung told The Irrawaddy. Palaung is the Burmese language name for ethnic Ta’ang people. “I heard he didn’t get along with villagers. He was shot seven times with a Luger pistol.”

A number of gunmen entered the monastery and shot the 45-year-old monk at close range, according to local villagers. The gunmen then fled the scene. The monk was shot in his temples, chest and back and died on the spot. Seven bullet casings were found at the crime scene, according to police records.

Brig-Gen Zaw Khin Aung said the case is under investigation.

Local residents believe that the assassination was the result of a division in the community over taxes levied by a Shan ethnic armed group active in the area. Half of the population in Khaynin Village is Shan while the other is ethic Ta’ang.

Local Ta’ang objected to paying taxes to the Shan armed group and reportedly went to discuss the issue with Khay Nin Sayadaw in late September. The abbot told the local residents not to pay the taxes, according to a Lashio-based reporter for a local news outlet, who spoke with The Irrawaddy on the condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.

“He didn’t tell them directly not to pay the taxes but instead said [the taxation] should not happen like this,” said the reporter.

Most ethnic Shan residents pay taxes to the armed group but the ethnic Ta’ang allegedly refused to pay.

Khay Nin Sayadaw was also involved in another dispute as many local ethnic Shan residents wanted their ethnic Shan monk to be abbot at the monastery instead of him.

“There have been divisions between Shan and Ta’ang who are supporters or laymen regarding the monastery,” said the local reporter. “There has been a power struggle for the position of abbot at the monastery.”

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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