Family of Missing Kachin Man Claims He Was Killed by Army

By Nyein Nyein 3 September 2015

CHIANG MAI, Thailand — The family of an ethnic Kachin villager who went missing from Hpakant’s  Ka Mai village earlier this year alleges that he was killed while in custody of the Burma Army and has demanded the return of his body.

Ung Sau Tu Ja, 48, was one of four villagers arrested by the Light Infantry Battalion 250 on June 19. The three others—Than Lwin, Poe The and Zaw Htun, also called Maung Kyiang—were released on June 28, according to Tu Ja’s family members who claim to have spoken with one of the freed men.

The witness alleged that Tu Ja was killed in custody on June 25 and his body was removed from the detention site the following day, Tu Ja’s family members told The Irrawaddy through an interpreter.

On Thursday, Tu Ja’s family sent a letter to President Thein Sein and Commander-in-Chief Snr-Gen Min Aung Hlaing demanding that his body be returned and that an investigation be carried out to obtain justice.

A spokesperson for the President’s Office declined to comment on the allegations, referring The Irrawaddy to inquire with the military. Neither the local battalion nor the Northern Command could be reached by our reporters on Thursday.

In July, however, Ye Kyaw Thu, commander of LIB 250, confirmed to The Irrawaddy that at least three of the aforementioned men had been arrested by his troops over allegations that they had connections to the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic armed group in active conflict with the Burmese government.

The commander said the men had already been released, but at the time none of them had yet returned to their families more than a month after they were apprehended.

Tu Ja’s disappearance is just the latest in a string of unresolved missing persons claims in the war-torn northern state, where more than 100,000 people have been displaced by armed conflict since the breakdown of a 17-year ceasefire in 2011.

In another high profile case, a Kachin woman named Sumlut Roi Ja was abducted along with her husband and his father while they were working in the family’s corn field near four years ago. While her family narrowly escaped, Roi Ja is believed to have been taken to a Burma Army base. She has not been seen or heard from since and efforts to seek justice through civilian courts have thus far been unsuccessful.

Mway Phu Thu, Tu Ja’s mother-in-law, said she hopes to avoid the agony and uncertainty experienced by others who have lost loved ones throughout the conflict.

“If we can see his body and are told the truth, we can forgive them,” she said. “But so far the Tatamaw [Burmese armed forces] keeps lying about Tu Ja’s death. We just want justice.”