Ethnic Kuki Man Killed in Northern Myanmar, Locals Blame Ethnic Shanni Army

By Salai Thant Zin 25 May 2020

PATHEIN, Ayeyarwady Region—A young ethnic Kuki man was killed and his father was injured in a shooting by five armed men in Homalin Township of Sagaing Region on Saturday. Local residents blame the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA) for the fatal shooting.

The Kuki are an ethnic minority living mostly in the northwestern part of Myanmar. The 17-year-old man from Manli Village in Homalin was riding to work together with his 40-year-old father on Saturday morning when the five gunmen emerged and shot at them near Aungthaw Village in Yak Pha Village-tract.

“According to the victim’s father, five men wearing plain clothes asked the victim to stop as the two approached Aungthaw Village,” Yak Pha Village-tract Administrator U Lettyar Kyaw told The Irrawaddy. “Because he was riding down a hill, he could not stop immediately and rode past them. He thought the men were teasing him as they were dressed casually, so he continued to ride, and was shot.”

The 40-year-old man was shot in his left elbow and his son was fatally shot in his left side before their motorbike plunged off the road near the bridge to Aungthaw Village.

The armed men fled the scene after the shooting and the son died of his wounds at the scene as local residents were preparing to send the two to Homalin Township Hospital.

Local residents claimed that Saturday’s incident was the first time a civilian was killed by gunmen and blamed the SNA, which is the only armed group based in Homalin Township.

Founded in July 1989 along the India-Myanmar border, the SNA set up a headquarters in 2009 on a mountain called Nwe Impha on the border.

The armed group now has bases in Hkamti, Homalin and Tamu townships in Sagaing Region, which shares a border with India. The group is also active in Kachin State, in Mohnyin, Mogaung, Waingmaw, Hpakant and other townships. The SNA has three brigades—891, 972 and 753—and a total of over 1,000 troops.

Though the Shanni people had their own monarchs and held their own territory when the British arrived in Myanmar, the SNA is not recognized by the government and has therefore been fighting to regain statehood.

The Kuki Youth Network (KYN) has also accused the SNA of being responsible for the fatal shooting.

“This [shooting] undermines friendship between Shanni and Kuki people who have lived together peacefully for many years, as well as regional stability. I would like to ask the SNA leaders to thoroughly investigate and hold perpetrators accountable,” said Say Gin, one of the KYN leaders.

The KYN, the Kuki Women’s Rights Organization and the Kuki Literature and Culture Committee released a joint statement on Saturday condemning the shooting.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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