Locals Suspect Burmese Soldier in Murder of Kokang Man

By Echo Hui 25 December 2012

The murder of a farmer in his home in northern Shan State’s Kokang region on Sunday has raised concerns among local people about the presence of Burmese troops in the area, and comes amid lingering resentment over the ouster of the former ruling rebel army in the autonomous region.

Local sources say that a man armed with an M16 rifle entered the home of Lin Zaixin, 38, in the Kokang capital of Laukkai at around 5:30 am on Sunday and demanded money. Neighbors say the man spoke only Burmese, and became angry when Lin offered just 500 yuan (US $80).

Most residents of Kokang speak Chinese and use the currency of neighboring China for most transactions, despite being under Burmese control.

According to local sources, Lin later offered 700 yuan, but the man raised three fingers, apparently indicating that he wanted 3,000 yuan. When he didn’t get it, he shot Lin in the abdomen, the sources said.

Lin, who lived in the eastern part of Laukkai, was a father of three and his family’s main breadwinner, the sources said. They added that the family called both local and Burmese police immediately after the intruder entered their home, but neither showed up in the ensuing 20 minutes before Lin was shot.

“They had a hasty funeral tonight and the victim has been cremated,” a source told The Irrawaddy on Monday. Lin’s family has declined to comment on the incident.

Local people say that the assailant was most likely a Burmese soldier, as weapons are not widely available to civilians in the area.

“We don’t know for sure if the killer was a Burmese soldier, but ordinary people don’t have guns,” said one source, adding that the local government had imposed strict rules prohibiting Kokang residents from owning firearms since the Burmese army ousted former rebels in the region in 2009.

In August 2009, Burmese government forces clashed with the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, a Kokang militia that had existed since 1989, in the first major breakdown of a truce between an ethnic army and government troops since the signing of a series of ceasefire agreements 20 years earlier.

Since the fall of the then-ruling Peng clan in 2009, anonymous posts in local forums indicate that there is still resentment of the Burmese military’s intrusion into the local affairs of the autonomous region.

“Public security is getting worse and worse,” said one local resident. “Kokang has lost its laws and we don’t feel safe anymore.”