Myanmar Military Officer Charged With Murder of Mon State Villager

myanmar-children-theinzeik-twp-mon-state-nov18-2017.jpg Children cross a street in Theinzeik township, southeastern Myanmar’s Mon state, Nov. 18, 2017.

A Myanmar army officer has been charged with killing an ethnic Mon villager during an investigation into a domestic dispute in southeastern Myanmar’s Mon state, after the man got into an argument with a relative, a local police official said Thursday.

Major Aung Ko Ko Min, an officer from the army’s Light Infantry Unit 587, was charged with the murder of Tin Soe Myint, a resident of Ale Sait Village on Kalar Gote Island in Ye township on May 15, officer Myint Win from the Ye township police force told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Khin Swe Tint, the dead man’s wife, reported the killing to the Lamine Region Police Station, requesting that action be taken against the soldier, he said.

The army has taken Aung Ko Ko Min into custody and has begun an investigation, he said. The officer will be tried in a military court.

“The villager Tin Soe Myint got into a fight with his father-in-law [who] reported the fight to the Light Infantry Unit 587,” Myint Win said.

“Major Aung Ko Ko Min brought Tin Soe Myint to the Light Infantry Unit and shot him dead during the investigation,” he said of the villager, who succumbed to four gunshot wounds.

The dead man’s family did not learn about Tin Soe Myint’s death until the following day, and his wife went to the police station on May 18, he said.

The police have asked for a copy of Tin Soe Myint’s death certificate, and will transfer the case to the military once they have it, Myint Win said.

The case is a rare instance of an army officer being held accountable for a crime despite decades of Myanmar’s powerful military acting with impunity, especially in areas affected by ethnic conflict and civil war.

The country’s 2008 constitution, drafted by a military junta in power at the time, guarantees that soldiers are immune from prosecution by civilian courts — a protection that gives local authorities little impetus or power to bring the perpetrators of crimes to justice.

The current civilian government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi has sought to bring the national military and various ethnic armed groups to the negotiation table to try to end the hostilities and forge lasting peace.

But the efforts of her ruling National League for Democracy (NLD) government have stalled because it has not been able to prevent new offensives and the resulting displacement of civilians, or the ongoing abuses by and impunity of the military.

Though the previous government of President Thein Sein managed to sign a nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA) with eight of the country’s ethnic armed groups in October 2015, it wasn’t until this February that the New Mon State Party (NMSP), the political wing of the 800-strong Mon National Liberation Army (MNLA), agreed to ink the accord.

Though the NMSP is one of two ethnic armed organizations to have signed the NCA under the NLD government, it still struggles to maintain peace in areas it controls in Mon state.

Reported by Kyaw Thu for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.

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