RANGOON — The body of missing Kachin villager Ung Sau Tu Ja has been unearthed in Hpakant Township, four months after his family alleged he was killed in military custody.
Police from Kamaing (Ka Mai) village have confirmed that a body found was that of the 48-year-old Tu Ja, who went missing after being detained by the military’s 250th Light Infantry Battalion on June 19. Kamaing police officer Kyaw Nyunt said his remains were buried over two months ago in a local “civil servant compound” and have now been returned to Tu Ja’s family.
“His family identified his body, and we have handed it over to hold a burial in their tradition,” Kyaw Nyunt told The Irrawaddy on Monday.
Tu Ja was one of four villagers arrested by soldiers on suspicion of ties with the Kachin Independence Army on June 9. The other three men were released from military custody three weeks later. Three months after his disappearance, Tu Ja’s family alleged that the military was responsible for his death and demanded the return of his body.
Mar Khar, a lawyer from state capital Myitkyina assisting the family with the case, told The Irrawaddy that Tu Ja’s body was exhumed after the military’s regional command launched an investigation into the 250th battalion.
“According to the police, Tu Ja’s body was unearthed after Ye Kyaw Thu, the commander of [the battalion], was investigated by the Northern Command,” he said.
A friend of the family, who requested anonymity, said that relatives were not permitted to be present while the corpse was being exhumed, as Tu Ja had been buried inside the local military compound.
“We were called to identify him after the hospital conducted an autopsy, he said. “All of his body had been damaged and his mother-in-law was only able to identify him by his head.”
A murder case has been filed with Kamaing village police. When questioned on alleged military involvement in Tu Ja’s death, police officers declined to comment, saying the case remained under investigation.
Tu Ja is survived by his wife and six young children. He will be buried tomorrow morning at 10am.