Myanmar Junta and Ethnic Armed Group Trade Accusations Over Fatal Pagoda Shooting

By The Irrawaddy 17 October 2022

Myanmar’s military regime and an armed ethnic Karen group have blamed each other for the fatal shooting of female pilgrims at the base of Kyaik Htee Yoe Golden Rock pagoda in Mon State last week.

Three Buddhist pilgrims were killed during a firefight between regime troops and a resistance force at a junta outpost near the temple on Wednesday.

Local people said the fatal shots were fired by junta soldiers after the resistance fighters had retreated.

The regime blamed the attack on an anti-junta People Defense Force (PDF) allied with the Karen National Liberation Army’s Brigade 1, the civilian National Unity Government (NUG) and its parliamentary wing. It said three were killed and 19 injured.

Thahton PDF, a local resistance force, told the BBC Burmese Service they directed fire only at the soldiers and police in the outpost, before retreating, adding that the pilgrims may have been hit when the regime forces retaliated. They challenged the junta to release CCTV footage of the incident.

The Karen National Union (KNU), the political wing of the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), said on Thursday it was investigating whether any of the 24 PDFs under its command were behind the fatal attack on pilgrims. The attack occurred in an area where KNLA Brigade 1 is active.

On Friday night, the KNU issued a statement that the killings were caused by random fire from regime forces responding to the PDF’s attack, citing testimony from a resident of Kin Mon Chaung village, where the attack happened.

On the same night, the regime issued a report on the attack that claimed resistance forces under the command of the KNLA, NUG and its parliamentary wing were responsible for the fatalities.

The regime also said it would also take legal action against The Irrawaddy and BBC Burmese for reporting that the pilgrims were killed by junta forces.