Burma

Officer Under Investigation Found Dead, Suicide Rumored

By Zarni Mann 12 June 2019

MANDALAY—A police major from the Patheingyi Township Police Station in Mandalay Region, who was involved in a crackdown on an anti-cement factory protest, died from a gunshot wound Wednesday.

A source from the Mandalay Region Police Station told The Irrawaddy that Police Maj. Myo Nyunt Than died in his apartment, located behind the Patheingyi station, from a gunshot wound to the head.

“We are investigating his death and we can’t say yet if he committed suicide or if someone shot him,” said an official from the Mandalay Region Police Station, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

According to police, the body of the police major was sent to Mandalay General Hospital’s mortuary for further investigation.

While police have released no further official information, the death has become the talk of the town in Mandalay, where rumors have spread that it was a suicide as the officer faced growing pressure related to the death of a detained protestor.

Police Maj. Myo Nyunt Than had been involved in a crackdown of people protesting a coal-powered cement factory on May 15 that resulted in the arrest of three people from Aung Thabyay Village, Patheingyi Township.

One of the detainees, Ko Tun Myint Win, died in custody in early June. The prison claims the death was due to high fever and alcohol withdrawal syndrome. The deceased’s family, however, said injuries and wounds found on the body lead them to believe Ko Tun Myint Win was tortured to death.

Police Maj. Myo Nyunt Than, one of the plaintiffs in the case filed against the detainees, was  facing investigation over Ko Tun Myint’s in-custody death.

The Alpha Cement Factory, owned by China’s Myint Investment Co., acquired land and secured permission to build a factory and to mine a nearby hill for raw materials in 2014, but local residents sent complaints to the regional government that year and the project was halted.

Construction resumed in 2015, prompting further objections from locals. In 2016 they staged a series of protests against the factory. Protests escalated again in 2018 when the Department of Road Transportation Administration announced plans to expand a village road connecting the cement factory to the main road.

In May of this year, protesters again called for the central government to investigate, and for the cement factory to ultimately be scrapped.

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