Shan Groups Demand Myanmar Military Punish Troops Over Civilian Killing

By Nan Lwin Hnin Pwint 14 July 2020

YANGON—Dozens of Shan civil society organizations (CSOs) have called for punitive action against Myanmar military personnel who allegedly killed a civilian and injured two others in Kyaukme Township in northern Shan State in late June.

Thirty-six Shan CSOs, including the Shan Human Rights Foundation, Shan Farmers Network and Shan Youth Network, released a joint statement Monday demanding that the case against the soldiers be tried in a civilian court rather than a court martial.

U Sai Lin, a spokesman for the CSOs, told The Irrawaddy, “What they did was wrong in the Kyaukme case. Action must be taken against them and in this case, they should be tried publicly in civilian court, and not court martial.”

Government troops forced local resident U Sai Maung to serve as a guide for them to Pan Kin Village during fighting with the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) in Kyaukme Township on June 29, said the joint statement. He said the soldiers beat him.

Arriving in Pan Kin, the troops then fired at villagers’ houses, killing a 60-year-old man and injuring a 55-year-old woman, the statement said. Light Infantry Battalions 23, 22 and 147 were responsible for shooting the civilians, according to the CSOs.

Local residents also said they witnessed the Myanmar military shooting in Pan Kin.

“The military is doing as it pleases, but the current government has not spoken up for the people and has turned a blind eye to it,” said U Sai Lin. “But when ethnic people have protested about it, the military has filed lawsuits against them. It is not fair. The National League for Democracy (NLD) government, I think, only cares to flatter the military.”

He also asked the government to speak up for the civilians who are bearing the brunt of armed conflicts.

The four parliamentarians representing Kyaukme Township in the Shan State and Union parliaments also filed complaints with the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission, the President’s Office and the National Reconciliation and Peace Center, asking them to investigate the killing.

When asked by The Irrawaddy, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission confirmed that it received the complaint, but declined to answer in detail.

“We want transparency. The truth must be revealed, and when the truth is revealed, punitive action must be taken as necessary,” Shan State lawmaker U Sai Tun Win of Kyaukme Township told The Irrawaddy.

The Myanmar military, also known as the Tatmadaw, contacted local authorities in Kyaukme on Sunday and said it will investigate the case.

“We heard the Tatmadaw would form an investigation commission. The township General Administration Department informed us on Sunday that they would arrive in Kyaukme today,” U Sai Tun Win told The Irrawaddy on Monday.

Last Friday, hundreds of local Kyaukme residents organized a protest in response to the civilian killing and injuries, holding placards in Shan, Burmese and English that read “No to the Tatmadaw that kills innocent civilians.”

The same day, the Myanmar military-run Tatmadaw True News Information Team said that it would open cases against three organizers of the protest for organizing the protest without permission.

Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun said that the military filed complaints against them not because of they were protesting, but because they gathered without seeking prior approval from authorities, in defiance of the government’s COVID-19 ban on public gatherings.

“Regarding complaints, the Defense Ministry will handle them according to procedures. The Tatmadaw does not ignore any complaint. We only act in line with procedures under military rules. The evidence will be collected as necessary and justice will be administered,” he said.

The Irrawaddy was unable to contact the Kyaukme Township Police Force to ask what laws were used to charge the three protest organizers.

The civilian killing and the violence in northern Shan comes despite the fact that the military’s unilateral ceasefire over COVID-19 is still in effect. On May 10, the Myanmar military announced a unilateral ceasefire which it said aimed to facilitate the prevention, control and treatment of COVID-19. The ceasefire is in effect until August 30.

There have been sporadic clashes between the Myanmar military and the RCSS despite the fact that the two signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, the Union-level ceasefire between ethnic armed organizations and the government, in 2015.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko.

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