Thousands of Villagers in Myanmar’s Karen State Protest Army Killings of Civilians

By Nyein Nyein 28 July 2020

More than 4,600 villagers in Bu Tho and Dweh Lo townships in Papun district of Karen State marched in parallel columns to Papun Town and Kamamung Town on Tuesday morning to demand justice and an end to military killings of civilians in their areas.

4,650 local villagers from 114 villages marched to Papun and Kamamaung towns calling out slogans.

The protest is the second in a week. Over 1,500 residents of 35 villages staged a protest outside Myanmar military posts in the area last Wednesday.

The protesters gathered to object to the killing of a Karen woman, Naw Mu Naw, in Po Lo Hta Village on July 16 by two soldiers of Myanmar military Infantry Battalion (IB) No. 409.

Residents said the incident in which two privates shot Naw Mu Naw and took her gold jewelry was the latest in a string of brutal cases facing their communities.

They called for the withdrawal of four military outposts from their region.

They shouted slogans in the Karen language meaning, “We cannot accept the killing of our people,” “We cannot accept the oppression of our village,” “Let’s work together with unity for our security,” and “Our birthplace and heritage belong to us.”

The demonstrators also raised the killings of five civilians by five different infantry battalions of the Myanmar military during the period of Jan. 2 to July 16 in Wah Thoe Kho, Wah Thoe Hta and Po Lo Hta villages.

The protesters said, “We cannot accept” those killings and artillery shelling into villages, and demanded justice in those cases.

Since 2018, the Myanmar military’s reconstruction of a road in Papun has sparked tensions between the military and the Karen National Union (KNU). The area is under the control of KNU Brigade 5 and now sees regular military tensions.

The KNU signed the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement in 2015 but the military and KNU troops still come into conflict over territorial disputes.

The military arrested the two soldiers who killed the Karen woman on July 17 and the Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the military would take harsh action against them. Further investigation by a military court is ongoing and action will be taken effectively and transparently, it said.

However, Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) spokesperson Naw Wahkushee said the military needs to show transparency in its actions on the Naw Mu Naw killing.

“There is no transparency. They [the military] said they would investigate, but nothing has been heard about the previous cases,” she said, citing cases of civilian shooting deaths caused by military troops.

According to the KPSN’s documentation, soldiers from IB No. 405, under Military Operations Command No. 8, shot and killed a Wah Thoe Hta villager on June 2.

On May 9, soldiers from IB No. 410 shot and killed a villager from Kuseik Village, and soldiers from the same battalion also shelled Wah Thoe Kho Village on May 7. Wah Thoe Kho residents were shot and killed by soldiers from IB No. 408 in early January. On March 5, a forest worker was shot dead by soldiers of IB No. 338 on Mae Wai Road.

“We hear that Naw Mu Naw’s husband [Saw Pu Aye] was questioned by the military and forced to sign a document. But we don’t know the details yet,” she said.

She added, “There were many cases that happened before, and there has still been no action taken in cases of civilians being killed from January to June.”

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