Myanmar’s army and police have opened an investigation into the brutal deaths of three ethnic Kachin men found murdered in the country’s turbulent northern Kachin state in late May after they had been detained by government troops, village and police officials said on Thursday.
The bodies of Nhkum Gam Awng, 31, Maran Brang Seng, 22, and Labya Naw Hkum, 27, were discovered on May 28, three days after soldiers from infantry unit 319 took them into custody while the trio was returning to an internally displaced persons camp after gathering firewood near Hka Pra Yang village, said Peter Bautnaw, the administrator of Mai Kaung village where the camp is situated.
“We are still working on finding witnesses who know well what happened,” said Zaw Lwin Oo, a police officer in Mansi township, where Mai Kaung village is located.
Camp residents found the bodies bearing gunshot and knife wounds and signs of torture about four miles from Mai Kaung village, site of a military post.
“The place where they were found is unsafe, and police don’t usually go there,” Kachin state police chief Tun Oo told RFA’s Myanmar Service in an earlier report, adding that landmines have reportedly been scattered through the area during decades of war.
“But because of what has happened, we were able to go there with the help of local people who know their way around the area,” he said, adding that authorities were conducting autopsies on the bodies.
The three who were killed had been detained with two others, who were released and returned to their camp after briefly being held, according to a May 30 report by Agence France-Press.
The camp houses thousands of people displaced by fighting between ethnic separatist fighters and government troops in the region.
Rights groups have accused both government troops and ethnic rebel soldiers of human rights violations in Myanmar’s conflict zones, including kidnapping, torturing, and killing civilians, and forcing them to work as laborers.
On May 22, thousands of ethnic Lisu protested in Myitkyina, capital of Kachin state, against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) for indiscriminately arresting and killing civilians and extorting money from them.
The investigation comes on the heels of the second round of nationwide peace talks among the government, Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups, and the military.
The negotiations led by de facto national leader Aung San Suu Kyi ended on Monday without the parties reaching a major agreement.
Reported by Kyaw Myo Min for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.