MNHRC Investigating Villager Deaths in Military Custody

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 30 May 2019

YANGON—The Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC) is investigating the deaths of seven villagers from Kyauktan, in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, who died in the custody of the Myanmar military, or Tatmadaw, according to commission members.

“We are interviewing villagers one by one. So far we have reached no conclusions,” MNHRC member U Yu Lwin Aung told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday. “We will meet the persons related to all 275 detainees.”

The MNHRC arrived in the village Wednesday morning and began speaking with community elders and families of the victims.

Military troops arrived in the village on April 30 and summoned all male residents above the age of 15, then interrogated 275 people at a local school on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army (AA). At around 2 a.m. on May 2, six of them were shot dead.

The military says the shootings occurred after the detainees attempted to snatch guns from the soldiers. Eight others were wounded and four went missing, according to a press release from the military.

Ko Aung Lin Kyaw, one of the eight wounded, died at the hospital on May 14, bringing the death toll to seven.

Injured detainees say one man, frightened by the detention, jumped over a fence and escaped. When soldiers fired at the escapee, more than 200 detainees stood up to see what was happening; the soldiers then surrounded the standing crowd from both sides, they say, and began firing at them.

In the aftermath of the incident, the Tatmadaw refused Rakhine State lawmakers entry into the village to investigate. Locals said Buddhist funeral rites were also denied for the victims. Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the opposite, however, at a press conference on May 3.

The Tatmadaw later released the remaining detainees and has opened charges against six villagers who they say admitted to being the members of the AA.

The Arakan National Party, a major party in Rakhine State, has sent separate letters to the president, the state counselor, the military chief and the MNHRC calling for an investigation into the case.

“We will conclude our inquiry on Friday,” U Yu Lwin Aung said. “We will review and submit the report to the commission. The commission will verify and report to the authorities. Then we will make public our findings.”

Rathedaung Township Lower House lawmaker Daw Khin Saw Wai and Rakhine State lawmakers Oo Than Naing and U Tin Maung Win are also in the village assisting MNHRC members with the inquiry.

“I learned that the findings will be submitted to the President’s Office,” Daw Khin Saw Wai told The Irrawaddy.

She said the investigation is independent and no villager is under pressure.

“We want to know the truth. There were deaths and injuries and the investigation will help uncover the truth,” she said.

The Tatmadaw has also formed their own team to investigate the incident.

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