Myanmar Shadow Govt Probes Killing of Family by Resistance Group

By The Irrawaddy 24 August 2022

The parallel National Unity Government (NUG) has started probing a case in which a resistance group killed many members of a family including a 13-year-old girl in Magwe Region, alleging that some members of the family belonged to a pro-military Pyu Saw Htee militia group.

The Yaw Defense Force (YDF) killed six members of the family on Sunday night in Saw Township’s Zeyar Ward. Among the victims were the house owner, U Khin Maung Lin, his wife, their daughter-in-law, their 13-year-old granddaughter and U Khin Maung Lin’s brother. Gold items, cash, two cars, phones and other valuables were stolen from the victims’ house.

“We have received a complaint about the case, and have told the YDF to cooperate in our investigation. We have already started an initial investigation by contacting other [resistance] groups,” secretary U Naing Htoo Aung of the NUG’s Defense Ministry told The Irrawaddy.

Neighbors hid in their homes during the raid, which lasted for nearly 45 minutes. Two other residents were also injured by gunshots, according to locals.

Being merchants in a small town, it was unavoidable for the victims to deal with the Myanmar military, but they were not known to be military informants, residents said.

A Saw resident said: “When you trade with [buyers and sellers in] Chauk, you have to submit the list of items that you will buy from or sell to Chauk, and seek permission [from the military]. Every truck carrying merchants’ cargo that leaves the town has to do that. So, they [the family] dealt with the military involving the cargo shipment.”

Local residents were angry that victims were shot in their heads and chests, and robbed.

“They killed the victims cruelly, the way the military does. Three men had one-third of their heads blown off. They were also shot in their chests. The way the women were killed was also quite brutal. I could not sleep the whole night because of anger and sorrow,” said a ward resident.

Six other local resistance groups released a joint statement on Monday condemning the YDP for killing people without confirming whether they were military informants. The perpetrators must take responsibility, they said.

A member of the Saw Township People’s Authority said: “We can’t accept that they acted as they please just because they have arms. What is worse, one of the victims was just 13. We condemn it as more like a terrorist act than killing military informants. It is unacceptable that they have recklessly killed people without making any verification about the complaint, which may have been filed out of a personal grudge.”

Local residents and other resistance groups call the murder and robbery a dictatorial act and an abuse of power by an armed group.

Within a few hours of the six local resistance groups’ condemnation of the incident, the YDF released a statement defending its actions, saying the victims were Pyu Saw Htee members who were in the middle of a meeting at the time of the raid, and were accidentally shot dead in an exchange of fire.

The 13-year-old girl was accidentally shot dead as she tried to grab a gun, the YDF said, adding that the son of the house owner shot at the resistance fighters and ran away.

However, locals denied the YDF’s allegation that the victims were Pyu Saw Htee or military informants, adding that no one has been detained or harmed by the regime because of the victims.

Following the criticisms from locals, the YDF released another statement saying it will investigate the case to see if the responsible unit on the ground provided the central office with false information.

When asked about the incident by The Irrawaddy, a YDF official said: “The YDF central office’s investigation is ongoing, and it will issue a press release when the investigation is over.”

The YDF statement said the perpetrators would be held accountable if they overstepped their authority and committed unlawful killings.

The YDF, which operates in Saw, Hteelin and Gangaw townships, is not yet under the command of the NUG’s Defense Ministry.

The resistance group was also accused of killing two innocent people from Saw in April after accusing the two of being military informants. A complaint was also filed with the NUG in that case.

In March, complaints were made about the crimes of the Yinmabin PDF led by Bo Thanmani in Yinmabin Township. There were reports that the Yinmabin PDF killed 21 people in five cases of killings, abduction and robberies. Resistance leader Bo Thanmani admitted committing crimes, after complaints were filed with the NUG’s Defense Ministry.

The NUG’s war crime investigation central commission at the time said that it was conducting investigations into possible war crimes. But it has not yet released details of how it handled Bo Thanmani’s case.

The NUG’s Defense Ministry in September last year released a military code of conduct and rules of engagement for resistance groups including PDFs. The code of conduct requires resistance fighters to compensate the owners an appropriate amount if they use civilian property, and not to torture or kill prisoners of war.