Ethnic Shanni Military Leader Assassinated by Junta: Group Claims

By The Irrawaddy 30 May 2021

The second-in-command of the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA), Major General Sao Khun Kyaw, was assassinated on May 26 by Myanmar’s military, according to the Kachin State ethnic armed group’s spokesman.

Colonel Hsur Sai Tun said Maj-Gen Sao Khun Kyaw, an ethnic Shanni from Mohnyin Township in Kachin State, died from gunshot wounds on Thursday morning.

He said the group’s deputy, widely known as Yebaw Than Chaung, was shot at close range.

“His security team was attacked and then he was shot by the assassin. Only he was killed and one of our other members was injured. We killed the assassin.

“There was no personal grudge, he was killed by Myanmar’s army,” he said, declining to comment on evidence of the assassin’s links to the junta.

The spokesman said the group is still investigating the assassination.

Maj-Gen Sao Khun Kyaw joined the armed struggle following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising and moved to Kachin Independence Army territory. He was appointed vice-chairman of the northern section of the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front, responsible for military affairs.

He was accused of being the key perpetrator of the 1992 killing of students in the front’s Pajaung camp, where 35 of 106 detained front members were executed between August 1991 and May 1992, accused of being government spies. Some died during torture and others were summarily executed, including 15 suspects on Feb. 12, 1992.

Extensive torture and extrajudicial killings followed as leaders of the northern wing of the student army formed after the 1988 crackdown attempted to extract confessions from detainees.

Sao Khun Kyaw then left the front and joined the Restoration Council of Shan State, which was formed in 1999. He worked as a central committee member in the armed group and was promoted to colonel.

In 2006, he was arrested by Myanmar’s military in Nam Kham Township, northern Shan State, on his way to Kachin State to join the SNA. Sao Khun Kyaw was given four death sentences.

He was released from prison, among many prisoners during the April 2018 presidential pardon, and returned to the SNA as the armed group’s deputy.

The SNA said it was formed in 1989 to fight for political equality, self-determination for the ethnic Shanni community and to establish a Shanni state.

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