More Than a Dozen Civilians Believed Killed by Myanmar’s Military in Weekend Bloodshed

The dead include four members of one family, a groom-to-be, and two soccer enthusiasts.
2021-06-21
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More Than a Dozen Civilians Believed Killed by Myanmar’s Military in Weekend Bloodshed Villagers attend a funeral for Moe Zaw Oo and Zaw Min Oo, who were shot dead by security forces, at a cemetery in Mon state's Chaungzon township, June 21, 2021.
Mawlamyaing Rescue Organization

Security forces loyal to Myanmar’s military regime are believed to have killed at least 13 civilians over the weekend, including four members of the same family, a young man delivering invitations to his wedding, and two people returning home from a soccer game.

On Saturday night, unidentified gunmen stormed a home in the Nyaungbin Thar ward of Sagaing region’s Kalay township, killing 50-year-old Win Zaw Oo, his 48-year-old wife San San Maw, his 23-year-old son Thiha Aung, and his 35-year-old son-in-law Zaw Zaw.

A neighbor, who spoke to RFA’s Myanmar Service on condition of anonymity citing a fear of reprisal, said the gunmen entered the home through a nearby alleyway before opening fire.

“The first gunshot was heard at about 8:30 p.m. It wasn’t very loud, so the other neighbors may not have heard,” he said.

“Then we heard voices saying, ‘Come out, open the door, come outside’ and then there were more gunshots. Win Zaw Oo and his son tried to run to the house across the street, but they were shot and killed instantly.”

According to the neighbor, San San Maw and Zaw Zaw were killed inside the house. Win Zaw Oo’s daughter, 25-year-old San Shwe Oo, and a visitor were also shot and wounded, while another visitor escaped unharmed.

The gunmen appeared to be wearing military uniforms and boots, as well as red scarves around their necks, he said, adding that it was unclear what kind of guns they were carrying because of the darkness.

Residents told RFA that the family of the deceased had been living in Nyaungbin Thar for the past two decades and “had ties with the military.” The Irrawaddy online news agency cited residents as saying that junta soldiers had killed the four in a raid, during which around 40 million kyats (U.S. $24,300), a car and other possessions were seized.

A statement issued by the junta on Sunday said that “supporters of the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) party” and “terrorists” had carried out a series of killings, assassinations, and destructive acts in recent weeks, including “setting up landmines to intimidate peaceful people.”

It claimed Saturday’s killings were perpetrated by such “destructive elements,” adding that an investigation of the scene by security forces had discovered four dead, as well as the injured daughter, who was taken to a nearby military hospital for treatment.

However, a member of the Kalay branch of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) militia that was formed in the aftermath of the military’s Feb. 1 overthrow of the government to protect the public from junta troops told RFA that his group had nothing to do with the incident.

He claimed the militia had obtained evidence that the military was responsible for the weekend killings and others, which he said were blamed on groups such as his to “tarnish the image of PDFs all over the country.”

“We have witnesses from the surrounding area in this case. It was widely reported on social media that the military came in their uniforms. We also have our own evidence that they did it,” he said.

“We strongly believe that the PDFs do not do these kinds of things to the people because we fight to defend them."

Relatives of those killed on Saturday declined to comment when contacted by RFA because of security concerns.

The four victims were buried Sunday, according to residents, who said that military troops searched the cellphones of mourners attending the funeral. San Shwe Oo was taken to a hospital in Mandalay on Monday for additional treatment, family members said.

Residents of Kalay claim that more than 40 people have been killed in the township since the February coup d’état.

A funeral service for Kyaw Kyaw Myo, a bridegroom shot dead by security forces, in Mandalay region's Singu township, June 21, 2021.
A funeral service for Kyaw Kyaw Myo, a bridegroom shot dead by security forces, in Mandalay region's Singu township, June 21, 2021.
Other weekend killings

A day after the incident in Kalay township, security forces in Mandalay region’s Singu township shot and killed a young bridegroom named Kyaw Kyaw Myo as he and a friend distributed invitations for his upcoming wedding to villagers in Nyein Chan Aung ward by motorcycle, residents said.

“He was shot at around 8:30 p.m. while asking people to attend and help out at the wedding,” one resident told RFA. “He didn’t understand why he had been shot. His friend was also arrested.”

The wedding of Kyaw Kyaw Myo and his fiancé Aye Aye Aung was slated to take place on June 24 at the bride’s residence in Singu township’s Gyobin village. Instead, Kyaw Kyaw Myo’s family retrieved his body from the military on Monday and is now planning his funeral.

Residents of Letpanhla village told RFA that Kyaw Kyaw Myo's friend remains in military custody.

Also on Sunday, security forces in the Mon state capital Mawlamyaing shot and killed two people who failed to stop their motorbike at a checkpoint while returning home from a soccer game, according to residents.

An official with the Mawlamyaing Social Relief Association, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he and his colleagues helped to carry the bodies of the two men, who were later identified as Moe Zaw Oo and Zaw Min Oo from Abit village in Chaungzon township’s Bilukyun ward.

“As far as we know, they were asked to stop the motorcycle for an inspection,” the official said. “I heard from the police that they resisted the inspection and the forces fired at them.”

An eyewitness to the shooting said Moe Zaw Oo and Zaw Min Oo were shot four and three times respectively. He said their bodies were taken to the Mawlamyaing People’s Hospital on Sunday evening, and returned to their families on Monday.

Additionally, the Irrawaddy cited militia members as saying that junta soldiers in Sagaing region’s Myaung township shot and killed three members of the Sanpya Social Organization on Saturday night as they returned home to Magwe region’s Yesagyo township in an ambulance.

It said that an additional three people were killed in Sagaing region’s Kani and Khin-U townships on Saturday.

Attempts by RFA to reach Myanmar’s military spokesman for comment on the killings over the weekend went unanswered Monday.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the military has killed at least 873 people since it orchestrated a coup on Feb. 1, claiming that the NLD’s landslide victory in the country’s November 2020 election was the result of widespread voter fraud. The junta has yet to present evidence of its claims and security forces have responded to nationwide protests with deadly force.

AAPP says some 5,045 people have been detained, charged or sentenced in the five months since the coup.

The group reported over the weekend that at least 25 people have been killed by the military while in detention since February—the latest of which was a 27-year-old man named Thet Paing Htoo who was beaten to death after being arrested on Saturday for his alleged involvement in anti-coup protests.

Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint protest in Yangon, Feb. 19, 2021. RFA
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi and U Win Myint protest in Yangon, Feb. 19, 2021. RFA
Birthday flower protest

Also on Saturday, supporters of NLD leader Aung San Suu Kyi held a widespread flower protest to mark her 76th birthday and demand her immediate release.

The State Counselor who, along with several other NLD officials, was detained in the aftermath of the February putsch, has been charged in six cases in the capital Naypyidaw and one in Yangon.

The charges -- violating the Official Secrets Act, bribery, incitement and sedition, violating the telecommunications law, possession of unlicensed two-way radios, and violating protocols set up to contain the spread of the coronavirus – are widely seen as designed to end her role in politics.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s lawyer, Min Min Soe, relayed a message of thanks to well-wishers after meeting with her on the second week of her hearing on the last three charges in Naypyidaw on Monday, adding that the NLD chief is in good health.

He said she listened carefully to the cases made by the prosecution, deliberately stating the facts and describing how she was innocent of the charges against her.

Aung San Suu Kyi’s trial, which began on June 14 and is being heard weekly on Mondays and Tuesdays, is expected to be completed within six months.

The democracy icon and Nobel Peace Prize laureate spent a total of 15 years under house arrest over a 21-year period that ended in 2010 under the country’s previous junta regime.

Myanmar’s shadow civilian National Unity Government (NUG) has said that Aung San Suu Kyi and other detained NLD leaders were unlawfully arrested and rejected the charges against them.

Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane and Kyaw Min Htun. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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