Karen Protestors Say Myanmar Military Must Leave After Killing Local Woman

By Zarni Mann 23 July 2020

MANDALAY—Over 1,500 locals from Papun District in Karen State staged a protest Wednesday outside of Myanmar military posts in their area, calling for an end to the military’s presence in the region after the recent killing of a civilian by two soldiers.

Local residents of 35 villages in Dweh Lo Township held placards with slogans and pictures of Naw Mu Naw, the woman recently shot and killed by the soldiers, as they marched to four military outposts. They demanded justice for her and other locals killed and injured by the military.

“We cannot bear the brutalities of the soldiers anymore,” said a local organizer of the protest who requested anonymity. “We want Mei Wai, Kay Ko, Wor Mu and Khu Thu Htar military outposts to be removed from our region.”

Residents said the incident in which two privates shot Naw Mu Naw and took her gold jewelry is the latest in a string of brutal cases facing their communities.

“In the past months, villagers from War Thaw Kho and War Thaw Khar were shot dead by the soldiers without reason,” said a local resident. “There are many locals being injured, too. The artillery and shells also have fallen into the villages, where we are living in fear, and we can’t even move around freely to work at our farms.”

Since 2018, the Myanmar military’s reconstruction of a road in Papun has sparked tensions between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU). The area is under the control of KNU Brigade 5 and now see regular military tensions.

The KNU signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015 but the military and KNU troops still come into conflict over territorial disputes.

“We want any organization or individuals who are working for the Karen people to help us by seeking a way for the removal of these military outposts,” the local organizer added.

Naw Mu Naw, a 40-year-old mother of three teenagers from Po Lo Hta Village, was shot dead by two soldiers from the military’s Light Infantry Battalion 409 in her home on July 16. The soldiers also took her gold necklace and earrings.

According to the Myanmar military’s Tatmadaw True News Information team, the military arrested the two soldiers who killed the Karen woman on July 17 and will take harsh action against them.

The Tatmadaw True News Information Team said in a statement on July 20 that privates Than Soe Lwin and Hein Min Htet were drunk when they took Naw Mu Naw’s gold necklace and then killed her. Naw Mu Naw reportedly owned a liquor shop.

The military’s statement also said a preliminary investigation found that the gun of private Than Soe Lwin went off as he confronted the victim and a bullet hit her in the head.

The statement said that further investigation in a military court is ongoing and that the two privates, currently detained at Biin military post in Mon State, will face harsh punishment.

The local residents protesting on Wednesday called for justice for Naw Mu Naw, saying they were sadden by the brutal acts of the soldiers.

“We want justice for Naw Mu Naw. We don’t believe the bullet just went off from the gun,” said one protestor. “This is not an accident, though the soldiers who shot her said they didn’t shoot her intentionally. The military needs to investigate the case sincerely.”

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