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Radio Free Asia

Spate of Civilian Killings in Myanmar Prompts Call to End Violence

2021-07-01 -- Nearly 40 civilians have been killed in Myanmar in less than two weeks as the result of assassinations by both pro- and anti-junta forces, prompting rights groups to warn that the violence will likely worsen unless the military yields to popular demand and hands power back to a civilian government.

The killings took place during the 12 days between June 19 and 30, and included local administrators, pro-military informants, and local militia fighters, according to research by RFA's Myanmar Service and the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).

Myanmar's military overthrew the country's democratically elected civilian government on Feb. 1 and has violently cracked down on widespread protests. Military leaders say a landslide victory by the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) in the country's November 2020 elections was the result of widespread voter fraud but have yet to produce any evidence of their claims.

The junta has also moved to assert control of the country's remote ethnic regions, taking on a host of local People's Defense Force (PDF) militias with its own troops and the help of paramilitary groups that support its rule.

Amid the clashes, several slayings have occurred on both sides of the conflict outside the theater of combat.

At least 10 people were killed between June 19 and 30 in northwest Myanmar's war-torn Sagaing region alone, sources told RFA.

Sein Min, 50, was among 15 residents of Kani township's Kin Ywa village who were detained and tortured on June 19 by junta troops and members of the pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia. He was later shot, and his body was dumped in a river, according to his wife, Moe Win.

"His body couldn't be found … We had to hold the [traditional] 7th day funeral rites without a body," she said.

"They came into the village with guns firing ... He was shot and left on the road, but nobody dared to go out. The soldiers were waiting for the villagers to come out. Later in the evening, they threw his body into the river."

The same day, in Sagaing's Myaung township, an unidentified group of men killed three people in an ambulance believed to be on a rescue operation near Thanat Kone village, while that evening, four members of a family were killed when gunmen in military uniforms opened fire on a home in Kalay township's Nyaungbin Thar village. The military and local militia have blamed each other for the killings.

Zeyar Lin, 30, died in an interrogation camp on June 22, the day after he was arrested by police and soldiers in Monywa township's Lezin village. Two days later, Thu Thu Nyein, 23, was killed by a group of masked men who fired into a house in the same village said to be owned by military informants.

In the three days from June 20 to 23, at least 27 military informants were killed in Sagaing, according to the Thunderstorm Group, a local militia. The killings could not be independently verified by RFA.

The killing of civilians during the 12-day period was not limited to remote Sagaing.

In Yangon region—home to Myanmar's largest city—Thet Paing Htoo Ali, a resident of Sir Pho Thar Compound Road in Bahan township, was violently arrested by police and soldiers on June 19 and discovered dead at an interrogation center the following morning. A 13-year-old boy named Po Sein was also shot dead by soldiers as he fled in panic from the scene of Thet Htoo Paing Ali's arrest.

On June 29, Sein Hlaing Win Kyargyi from Thingangyun township, who was widely reported to be a military informer; a policeman on duty at the Myanma Economic Bank in Tamwe township's Myitta Nyunt Ward; and a female ward administrator in South Dagon township were killed by unknown men.

Similarly, three local administrators in Karen state, Mandalay region, and Bago region were killed between June 19 and June 29 by unidentified gunmen.

Call to end violence

Speaking to RFA on Thursday, a spokesman with the AAPP said that regardless of what they had done, all of the victims of the spate of killings were civilians and citizens of Myanmar, and called for an end to the violence.

"These kinds of acts will continue until the junta meets the demands of the people," he said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.

The junta must hand back state power, which it seized illegally, if these killings are to end."

The spokesman said that all perpetrators of torture, ill-treatment of detainees, and killings must be brought to justice if the country hopes to restore peace.

Nickey Diamond, a spokesman for the group Fortify Rights, called attacks targeting civilians "a violation of human rights" and urged the PDF to focus on fighting the military.

"Those fighting the junta must observe the guidelines of the Geneva Convention—killing civilians without giving them a chance to stand trial is a gross violation of human rights," he said.

"Such acts will create a major obstacle for [the shadow National Unity Government] NUG, which is seeking international recognition … Only members of the military, and not civilians, should be targeted. [Informants] could be executed based on incorrect evidence."

The UN and the international community have repeatedly called for an immediate end to the junta's violence, but in the five months since the coup, unlawful arrests occur almost daily.

According to the AAPP, the military has killed 885 people and arrested 5,195 in connection with the anti-junta protests. Of those, 2,269 were freed from prisons across the country as part of a general amnesty on Wednesday, but observers say the release was little more than a stunt by the military to gain international recognition following its February power grab.

Reported by RFA's Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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