The Burma Army began an investigation into the murder of three Kachin men allegedly tortured and killed by army troops, according to a press release issued by the office of the military’s commander-in-chief on Tuesday.
Nhkum Gam Awng, 31, Maran Brang Seng, 22, and Labya Naw Hkum, 27, from Maihkawng internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Mansi Township, Kachin State, were reportedly arrested by Battalion 319 on May 25. Their maimed bodies were found on Sunday.
The men were arrested at Hka Pra Yang village, about three miles from the IDP camp, while they were collecting firewood, according to camp officials and community elders.
Families and friends of the men went searching for them on Sunday, after hearing gunshots, and found their bodies buried about five miles from Hka Pra Yang village.
Police investigating the crime took the bodies to a hospital in Mansi Township on Monday morning for postmortems and returned them on Monday afternoon. Locals said this was the first incident of murder in the area.
The commander of Battalion 319 met camp officials and community elders twice on Monday.
“He met us briefly at 5 p.m. and summoned us again at 8:30 p.m. He told us to tell the truth. We did, and he said that he would take action in line with the military code of conduct,” camp official Naw Mai told The Irrawaddy.
“He sounded like he was confessing it [the deaths],” he added.
According to postmortem results seen by The Irrawaddy, Maran Bran Seng sustained skull fractures, an eight-centimeter entry bullet wound in his chest and a four-centimeter exit bullet wound in his left shoulder blade.
Labya Naw Hkum sustained skull fractures as well as knife wounds and had about five centimeters of his left ear cut off.
Nhkum Gam Awng sustained five knife wounds in each knee, and one gunshot wound.
Nann Zein La Ja, a member of the Kachin Baptist Convention (KBC), said the legs of all three men were stabbed so that they could not stand. The bodies were buried at the cemetery in Maihkawng village on Monday, he added.
“There are no troops other than the Burma Army here,” he said. “Battalion 319 has been stationed in Maihkawng for almost a year and there were no problems between them and the local villagers before. But this time it is quite serious, and has caused panic among villagers. People from the camp dare not go outside now.”
The three victims were fathers, said Nann Zein La Ja, and their families along with camp officials want to prosecute those responsible in a civilian court. According to camp officials, the case had been reported to the UNHCR office in Kachin State’s Bhamo Township.
The commander of Battalion 319 and the Burma Army’s information team could not be reached for comment.
Maihkawng IDP Camp currently provides shelter for more than 800 people from some 20 villages who have been displaced by clashes between the Burma Army and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) since June 2011.