MON STATE — Six female medics of the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) were murdered after being taken prisoner by the Myanmar Army in Namkham Township, northern Shan State, claimed the ethnic armed group, which accused the military of killing prisoners of war. A male TNLA soldier was killed while trying to protect the medics, the group said.
According to a statement issued by the TNLA on Monday, the six women were medics, and the dead man was a soldier who had tried to protect them. It said the women were detained after being ambushed by the Myanmar Army (or Tatmadaw) on July 11 while they were traveling as a group in a village in Mann Wang.
The Irrawaddy attempted to contact the Defense Ministry for a response to the allegations on Tuesday, but all of the ministry’s listed spokespersons were unable to be reached for comment.
The TNLA soldier was killed during a brief exchange of fire with Tatmadaw troops, according to the statement. It said some other TNLA personnel were wounded but managed to escape. Those who escaped reported that the six medics were detained by Myanmar Army troops.
The army detained the six women at 1:30 p.m. on July 11 and seized three guns from them, the statement quoted the survivors as saying said.
In an interview with RFA posted online Tuesday morning, TNLA spokesperson Major Tar Aike Kyaw said the slain women were TNLA medics who would travel between villages providing medical treatment to locals. The spokesman repeated the claim made in the TNLA statement that the dead man was a soldier killed while trying to protect the group after they were ambushed by Myanmar Army troops, who later detained the women.
According to the TNLA statement, on July 14, a group of local residents found the bodies of six women who appeared to have been killed and dumped in a forested area outside the village. The local people buried the bodies in Mann Wang on the same day.
Two of the dead women had gunshot wounds to their heads and legs, while the bodies of the other four women were bruised and had stab wounds, according to the statement from the TNLA.
In the statement, the TNLA accused the Myanmar Army’s Infantry Battalion 301, under the control of Infantry Division 88, of murdering the six medics.
The alleged murders have sparked outrage among ethnic Ta’ang. Locals asked why the Myanmar Army didn’t prosecute the medics, rather than killing them. They accused the army of violating the rights of prisoners of war.
Lway Cherry, an ethnic Ta’ang from Namsang Township, said, “I just want to say that this is a war crime. Instead of killing them, they could have sent them to jail, in accordance with the law.”
She believed the killings were intended to send a signal to other Ta’ang women not to join the TNLA.
“Their action could [be intended to] discourage girls and women from working for their people,” she said.
She said the killings would spread hatred between ethnic Ta’ang and Burmese in northern Shan.
“I’m afraid that this case will fuel racial division,” she said.
Ashin Tikkhanyarna, an ethnic Ta’ang Buddhist monk, said, “It is sad to see how they were murdered, especially as they were women. There are laws regarding [the treatment of] prisoners of war. But the Myanmar Army does not respect the law, and brutally killed them.”