After Shooting of Kachin Teen, Protesters Dispute Burma Army Claims

By Saw Yan Naing 22 June 2016

RANGOON — After nearly one thousand local residents in Myitkyina, Kachin State took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the shooting of a teen by a Burma Army soldier, the Ministry of Defense has officially announced the cause of death as a “misfire.”

On Monday night in the Kachin State capital, an unarmed 19-year-old ethnic Kachin university student, Gum Seng Awng, was shot to death by a Burma Army soldier.

The Ministry of Defense announced in The Global New Light of Myanmar, a state-run newspaper, on Wednesday, “The death of a Kachin man on Monday night was caused by a misfire from a soldier’s gun.”

“The two soldiers were providing security at the Bala Min Htin Bridge in Myitkyina and were escorting four [female] civilians who asked them to help as they were being threatened by a group of men,” said the statement. “When the soldiers arrived back [at] the bridge, a group comprising eight men fought them and attempted to grab the arm of a soldier, who then apparently misfired his weapon killing a young male.”

The two soldiers were injured and are receiving medical treatment at a local Army battalion base.

“Action will be taken according to the procedures,” said the Ministry of Defense.

However, residents and relatives remain upset because the victim was an unarmed civilian. Local sources confirmed that there was an argument between the two soldiers and a group of young Kachin men that led to the Gum Seng Awng’s death. But they dispute the events that led up to the shooting.

Zau Lat, Gum Seng Awng’s uncle, told The Irrawaddy the cause of the death was unclear because his nephew’s friends had different accounts.

“His friends said they were on their way home when they saw two girls and joked around with them. But then the two soldiers drove behind the girls and asked the young men why they were talking with the girls, so they had an argument,” said Zau Lat.

“But, looking at his injures, it looks like he was shot from behind deliberately at close range,” added Zau Lat, adding that his nephew’s body had three bullet holes.

According to the account Zau Lat heard, Gum Seng Awng was with three of his friends, as opposed to the Army’s claim of a group of eight men.

Relatives of the victim wanted local authorities to investigate the killing and bring to justice those responsible. However, they said they had low expectations and claimed the local authorities tried to prevent them from seeing and examining Gum Seng Awng’s corpse at the hospital on the night of the incident.

In their march on Tuesday, the protesters held placards and posters that read, “Stop killing students, stop killing unarmed civilians, stop killing Kachins.”

“They marched yesterday [Tuesday] to condemn the killing of civilians, and they want guarantees it won’t happen again,” Zau Lat said. “They are trying to put pressure [on the authorities].”

There was no protest today, and a funeral ceremony will be held Thursday at 1 pm, led by the Kachin Baptist Convention, a local Christian civil society organization.