Villagers Who Were Shot Dead in Custody Denied Funeral Rites, Locals Say

By Min Aung Khine 6 May 2019

SITTWE—Buddhist funeral rites were denied for six local residents shot dead by the Myanmar military (or Tatmadaw) in the village of Kyauktan in Rakhine State’s Rathedaung Township, local residents told The Irrawaddy.

They said an informal burial was held on Friday. “At first, family members were not allowed to see the bodies. Soldiers informed the family members and villagers only after they took the bodies to the cemetery. And the funeral rites could not be performed. An informal funeral was held,” Ma Soe Soe, a resident of Kyauktan village, told The Irrawaddy.

According to Buddhist custom, funeral rites are performed by monks, to whom family members make donations in the hope that the deceased may benefit from the merit upon their rebirth.

“As funeral rites could not be performed for them, they lost their rights,” said Buddhist monk Sayadaw U Wunna Siri.

Funeral attendees were also prohibited from taking photos of the funeral with their mobile phones, the villagers said.

However, Brigadier-General Zaw Min Tun of the Tatmadaw True News Information Team said the bodies were handed over to family members at around 9.30 a.m. on Friday, adding that funeral rites were performed according to Buddhist tradition.

“It is not that [funeral attendees] were not allowed to take photos and videos [of the funeral]. We handed over the bodies to family members, and allowed the funeral to be organized in line with religious customs,” he told The Irrawaddy.

He added that Buddhist rites were performed at the funeral.

But Ma Soe Soe, the Kyauktan village resident, told The Irrawaddy, “The monks cannot even leave the monastery; how could a funeral possibly have been organized in line with Buddhist funeral rites? I attended the funeral. Family members were only able to see the bodies for a while. All the bodies were disfigured.”

Brig-Gen. Zaw Min Tun said the Tatmadaw had assigned a senior military officer to investigate the allegations, and that it would officially release the findings.

On April 30, Tatmadaw troops arrived at Kyauktan village and summoned all the male villagers above the age of 15. Then, they interrogated 275 villagers at the village school on suspicion of having ties to the Arakan Army (AA).

According to villagers who were injured in the incident, a detainee who had been scared by the ongoing detention jumped over the fence and escaped. Soldiers fired at the man and more than 200 detainees stood up to see what was happening. Unexpectedly, soldiers surrounded them from both sides and fired into the crowd, the injured villagers said.

While six of the detainees were shot dead, eight others were injured. The Tatmadaw confirmed the fatalities but claimed its soldiers opened fire on the captive villagers because they tried to snatch guns from the soldiers, an account which differs to that shared by those at the scene.

“We were sleeping when we suddenly heard gunfire. So, we were frightened and checked what was happening. Then a villager ran into the crowd, shouting ‘Run! Run!’ This was followed by soldiers opening fire on us. So, we all ran in different directions out of fear. We were surrounded by soldiers both inside and outside [the school]; how could we snatch guns?” said Ko Kyaw Kyaw Nyein, one of the injured detainees receiving treatment at Sittwe Hospital.

The Tatmadaw released 126 villagers on Friday, and said that more would be released later.