Two Myanmar Soldiers Face Court-Martial for Karen Woman’s Murder

By Kyaw Myo 30 July 2020

Naypyitaw – Two soldiers are being tried at a court-martial for the murder of a Karen woman in Papun District in Karen State on July 16, Myanmar’s military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday.

“Myanmar’s military has been investigating [the two] at court-martial for two days. They are charged with murder, desertion, drug abuse and holding weapons. We will take harsh action against them,” Brig-Gen Zaw Min Tun said.

“Action will be taken against them under the Defense Services Act for desertion. But for murder and weapon charges, there are penalties prescribed in the Penal Code. For murder, they will be punished under Article 302 of the Penal Code. The penalties will not be lighter than the ones prescribed in the Penal Code,” added the military spokesman.

The military said on July 20 that two privates based in Polohta Village in Papun District, each with their personal weapons, left their post without permission on July 16 and drank at a bar in the village.

One of the soldiers attempted to steal a gold necklace from the female bar owner, which started a short fight between the two. She died at the spot as the soldier’s firearm accidentally went off and the bullet hit her head and back.

Thousands of residents staged protests at the military base in Papun on July 22 and July 28, demanding justice and that the district’s outposts be closed.

Though the military said it would take action against perpetrators, its statement described the incident as an accidental discharge, which is incorrect, said Saw Be from Katainghti Village, who participated in the protest.

“I don’t have trust in the process because it says one thing and does another. What the [Tatmadaw] True News Information Team said about an unintentional discharge is not convincing the people,” he told The Irrawaddy.

“We never want such cases to happen again,” he added.

The military spokesman said the case concerned individual personnel, but the Tatmadaw (military) as the institution will tighten discipline and more strictly regulate troops to prevent similar incidents, he said.

But outposts cannot be removed, the spokesman said, because they were necessary for security reasons. He suggested that there is an instigation behind the demand for the removal of the outposts.

“Military outposts are for security reasons. The perpetrators committed the crimes personally. There are organizations that take advantage to instigate trouble from behind the scenes,” he said.

Major Saw Eh Doh Htoo of the Karen National Union’s Brigade 5, in whose area the incident happened, denied the military allegation.

“It is impossible that the KNU instigated [the protests]. The most likely explanation was that social organizations spoke up with sympathy for the victim,” he said.

He said he had reported the case to KNU headquarters and Myanmar’s military. The case is likely to be discussed at the Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC) meeting, he added.

There was an exchange of fire between the military and the KNU, which is a signatory to the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement, in May in Papun after the military reportedly attempted to remove two KNU COVID-19 inspection posts.

Moreover, the two sides are still in dispute over the military reconstruction of a road between Papun and Thandaung, areas which are under KNU control. And there have been sporadic skirmishes as the two sides still cannot designate territories according to the NCA.

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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