Burma Army Accused of Killing Seven in Northern Shan State

By Lawi Weng 1 July 2016

RANGOON — Seven rural residents of northern Shan State’s Lashio Township were killed this week, with victim’s families and local villagers blaming the Burma Army.

On Tuesday, two young men were reportedly shot dead while riding motorcycles through a rural area of the township. Local sources said that Burma Army soldiers had ordered them to stop, and opened fire when they refused to do so. However, the victims have not been identified.

Also on Tuesday, five residents of Mong Yaw village were arrested from their fields and taken to an unknown location by soldiers from Burma Army Light Infantry Battalion 362, according to the victim’s families, who found their bodies the next day buried by a corn field at the bottom of a nearby mountain.

It is not known exactly where, how or when the five were killed. The families held their funerals in the village on Thursday. Four were ethnic Ta’ang (Palaung) and one ethnic Shan. They were aged between 20 and 39.

“They were taken by the Burma Army. Their families have accused the Burma Army of killing them. They were arrested while working in their fields,” said Sai Wann Lern Kham, a lawmaker in the Upper House of the Union Parliament from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy (SNLD), who represents Lashio and other nearby townships (Shan State constituency 3).

He said, “We do not know how the five [detained] people were killed, but the two youth were shot and died on the road.”

He said he was waiting for the victim’s families to take legal action against the Burma Army. He had collected information in preparation to help them.

However, he said, “Our local people do not dare to take action against the Burma Army. If they asked, I would help them to file charges at the police station.”

Lashio is home to the Burma Army’s Northeast Regional Command Center. There is a heavy concentration of army personnel in the town, with bases in the surrounding countryside.

Northern Shan State has Burma’s highest concentration of ethnic armed groups in conflict with the Burma Army. The last year has seen fighting involving the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Shan State Army-North, the Kachin Independence Army and the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army.

In its counter insurgency campaigns, the Burma Army has been accused of detaining, torturing and murdering civilians accused of supporting rebel groups, and forcing others to work as porters.

This week, the Ta’ang Women’s Organization issued a report entitled “Trained to Torture,” featuring accounts from ethnic Ta’ang victims of torture by the Burma Army from 2012-2016.

Ethnic armed groups have also been accused of abuses against civilians in northern Shan State in recent months, which has reportedly heightened inter-ethnic tensions in some townships.