Mon State — The family of an ethnic Palaung man who went missing in northern Shan State last month says he was found dead on Wednesday.
San Mon, 32, also known as Mar Kan, went missing on Oct. 26 in Mang Bein Village, Lashio Township, according to his wife, Khun Mai. She said he has working in his vegetable garden when he heard fighting erupt between rival ethnic armed groups — The Restoration Council of Shan State (RCSS) and Shan State Progress Party — and headed back to their home to retrieve their four children.
“He went back home in the middle of the fighting to bring out our family. But he disappeared in the area where the two armed groups were fighting,” she told The Irrawaddy.
Khun Mai said locals saw her husband heading back home and heard him shout at the armed groups to stop fighting long enough to let him bring his family to safety.
She said the children escaped the fighting unharmed but that the family found San Mon’s body in a shallow grave near the village on Wednesday morning while searching for him.
“The dead body was found on a hill by the village and it has been buried,” she said.
A relative of San Mon who joined the search said the cause of death was not obvious because the body had already started to decompose but added that his skull appeared to have been fractured and that two military-style knives were found in the grave with him.
Khun Mai said police do not operate in the area because of the danger posed by the armed groups and that she had little hope that they would investigate her husband’s death. She said he had gone to China to earn money for the family but came back to visit on occasion and had not ties to any of the armed groups.
She suspected the RCSS in San Mon’s death because she saw the group taking up a position on the hill where his body was later found while she was fleeing the village herself. She said locals had also told her that they saw men in camouflage taking San Mon away but did not know which armed group they were with.
RCSS spokesman Colonel Sai Oo told The Irrawaddy that his group did not sanction the killing of innocent civilians and said it would investigate San Mon’s death if his family produced credible evidence of its involvement.
“It is difficult to know who was involved in the killing because it was on the frontlines,” he said.