A ward administrator suspected of being an informer for the government military in western Myanmar’s conflict-ridden Rakhine state was shot dead Tuesday, with national forces blaming an ethnic army for his death, a local official and the dead man’s relatives said.
Than Maung Chae, 47, from Ahle-baing ward in Kann Htaung Gyi town in Myebon township, was murdered two months after he received an anonymous death threat, his son, Ye Yint Aung, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“It was not really a letter, but a message written on a cardboard with a soft pen that was left on a cart by the house,” he said.
“The message accused my dad of being a military informer,” he said. “It is not true. The message said his death was coming and that he and his group would soon fall.”
Family members told RFA that Than Maung Chae had gone to Bago region in southern central Myanmar for two months after he received the threat in April and was murdered on the sixth day after he returned home.
“It happened around 8:30 p.m. last night in his home,” Sein Hla Maung, deputy administrator of Myebon township, told RFA. “It was raining.”
“While he was watching TV with the family, a gunman in a raincoat went into the house and shot him,” he said. “It was just one shot to his head. Now the police are working to find the gunman.”
RFA was unable to reach Kann Htaung Gyi police station for comment.
Than Maung Chae’s relatives said the gunman was heavyset and wore a short sarong and a raincoat with a hood to hide his face. They also said they believed that the murder was carried out by an armed group, but they could not identify which one.
“The killer used a gun, so it is obvious that he is from an armed group,” Ye Yint Aung said. “It can’t be the [Myanmar] military, [so] he must have been from the Arakan Army [AA].”
‘Surely committed by the AA’
Military spokesman Brigadier General Zaw Min Tun blamed the AA for the administrator's murder.
“This must surely have been committed by the Arakan Army,” he told RFA. “The way the man was killed is exactly the same as other murders committed by AA members in the past.”
But AA spokesman Khine Thukha denied the accusation.
“I conclude that this is a fabrication to distort public perception by the belligerents,” he said.
“We didn't have any problems with Than Maung Chae,” he said. “We had no reason to murder him. There must be other reasons, such as personal hatred or business problems that were the cause of his murder. ”
Hostilities between Myanmar forces and the AA, an ethnic Rakhine army that seeks greater autonomy in the state, intensified in late 2018 and again in early January after Arakan fighters carried out deadly attacks on police outposts.
Local administrators and civilians in Rakhine state have been subjected to harassment by both the AA and the Myanmar Army on suspicion of acting as informants for the enemy, resulting in arrests, disappearances, and murders.
Since the fighting intensified, more than 10 village chiefs, ward administrators, and local villagers have gone missing, while over six local officials have been murdered by unknown gunmen.
Police have yet to find the perpetrators in any of the cases.
Reported by Kyaw Tun Naing for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.