Chinese National, Accused of Murder, Allegedly Executed in Mong La

By Lawi Weng 3 February 2016

RANGOON — Accounts surfaced this week that authorities in Mong La, a special administrative region known as a hub for illicit activity on the Sino-Burmese border, may have executed a Chinese national after he was found guilty of homicide and arson.

A statement bearing the official Mong La government stamp, published in the media outlet of an ethnic Kokang rebel group, announced that a 42-year-old man from Hunan Province had “murdered, made arson, bomb attacks and so on,” and was to be executed by gunfire on Jan. 30.

A “court investigation” found him guilty of illegal arms possession and carrying out an arson attack resulting in the deaths of seven people and the injury of four others, according to the statement, which appeared to have been issued by a regional court.

Speaking to The Irrawaddy on condition of anonymity, a Mong La resident said that last week a man was paraded through the town on the back of a truck and brought to the local football stadium, where hundreds of people had gathered.

“They did not execute him at the football stadium, they killed him on top of a mountain,” said the woman, who attended the public spectacle on the sporting grounds. She said armed guards explained that the condemned man was a criminal and would be shot to death, before they drove him out of view.

Photographs of the procession and the packed football field were uploaded on a Facebook community page called “Ethnic Region Military Information,” which has more than 27,000 followers. The post was shared almost 1,000 times as of Wednesday morning. The account regularly posts updates about armed ethnic groups, but the identity of its administrators is unknown and its content has not been verified by any official rebel-affiliated sources.

When contacted by The Irrawaddy on Tuesday, Mong La Governor Sai Mauk said he was unaware of the incident as he was in Kunming, China, at the time it was said to have occurred. Mong La, also known as Shan State Special Region 4, is controlled by a non-state armed group called the National Democratic Alliance Army (NDAA), and enjoys a high degree of autonomy from the central government.

The region, which borders China’s Yunan Province, has a reputation as a nexus of illegal activity; Mong La’s eponymous main town is home to sprawling casinos and brothels, and is a known destination for wildlife traffickers. Local authorities have estimated that about 800 vehicles enter Mong La from China every day for purposes of sex, gambling and trade. Despite its debauchery, Mong La is also reputed for strict and selective law enforcement, dealing heavy-handed punishments without due process.

While district-level courts in autonomous zones are authorized to issue the death penalty, the ruling would be subject to appeal at a national court, according to Sam Zarifi, regional director of the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ).

“If this is in fact an Autonomous zone district court, there should have been an appeal process,” Zarifi told The Irrawaddy via email. “So, if the report is true, it’s a major problem for the rule of law in the country.”

Overextending the zone’s judicial authority would be particularly problematic with regard to capital punishment, as Burma is considered a de facto abolitionist state and has not openly carried out an execution in decades. Further complicating matters is that the prisoner was a foreign national, and it is unclear whether he had access to consular support.

Zarifi said Burma “should not be even considering bringing back the death penalty in practice now, and especially not for a foreign national, based on an opaque judicial process that faces serious questions about its fairness and credibility and sits essentially outside the national legal system.”