Three northern Shan State village chairmen were shot dead Sunday in the town of Kyaukme by two unknown gunmen.
At 2 p.m. four people entered a Kyaukme restaurant and two pulled out firearms and shot at five people.
An anonymous source told The Irrawaddy that the three victims were chairmen of three villages.
Sai Tun Yin from Mong Tin, Sai Aung Thein from Nai Mon and Sai Tu Zay Ya, who was a former chairman from Lao Ow, were killed.
The source said the Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) came to their three villages and asked the chairmen to recruit villagers.
The three purportedly came to Kyaukme to meet Shan leaders to discuss ways to stop forced recruitment by the RCSS.
Two members of the group managed to escape, according to Sai Tun Nyan, a state parliamentarian for Kyaukme Township.
He confirmed that the three victims were village chairmen.
“We talked to the restaurant staff. They said two of the attackers stayed at the entrance of the restaurant, while the other two shot at the customers who were sitting at a table,” he said.
Two victims died at the restaurant and the third died at the hospital.
The three victims were ethnic Shan, according to Sai Tun Nyan.
The anonymous source said the three victims planned to ask for help from Shan community leaders in the town to prevent the RCSS from seizing recruits. They reportedly came to the restaurant to meet community leaders.
The source said that the RCSS recruited 35 villagers last month in Mong Tin but released 32 of them after a request from Myanmar’s military. The RCSS allegedly blamed the village authorities for the military request.
A senior Buddhist monk and former captain from Myanmar’s army have also been killed in Kyaukme during the last two years.
Sai Tun Nyan said gunmen had killed four car drivers in the town this year. No arrests have been made.
“It is difficult to identify the killers but they probably came from armed groups as civilians do not have guns,” he said.
There were many armed groups in the town, meaning identification was difficult, he added.
Kyaukme has been at the center of a conflict between the RCSS and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA).
Businesses are struggling amid the ongoing instability and many residents have left to look for work elsewhere, Sai Tun Nyan said.
Most of the killers used motorbikes and no one dared to chase them, the representative said.
“There is no rule of law. We do not blame the police who do not dare to chase the killers. We have to be careful about who we speak to,” Sai Tun Nyan said.
“Only a political solution can solve this problem,” he added.
Armed groups in Kyaukme Township include Myanmar’s army, the TNLA, RCSS and northern and southern branches of the Shan State Army. Fighting often occurred between the Myanmar army and the TNLA in the area. There is also fighting between the TNLA and RCSS.
Violence between the two main ethnic groups, the Shan and Ta’ang, broke out in 2016.
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