Six Myanmar soldiers, including regiment officers, have admitted to killing three ethnic Kachin refugees in the town of Mansi in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state, where the national army is engaged in hostilities with an ethnic armed group, a village official said.
The soldiers confessed that they were responsible for the killings during a hearing at military court on Tuesday in Mansi.
The three male refugees — Nhkum Gam Awng, 31, Maran Brang Seng, 22, and Labya Naw Hkum, 27, — were taken into custody on May 25 by soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 319 while they were heading back to their refugee camp after gathering firewood near Hka Pra Yang village, sources told RFA's Myanmar Service at the time.
Their bodies were found three days later in nearby Maikaung village, they said.
“They admitted they killed three internally displaced persons,” said Peter Bauk Ja, the administrator of Mung Hkawng village, who attended the hearing. “We don’t know when they will be sentenced.”
Two soldiers, two officers, and a battalion commander from the government army’s 319th Light Infantry Regiment have been charged with murdering the trio, according to media reports.
The three Kachin men 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.
Their bodies, bearing gunshot wounds and signs of torture, were found on May 28 by residents of the camp, home to many of the estimated 100,000 people displaced by clashes between ethnic separatist fighters and government troops in the region, AFP said.
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.
Hostilities between the Myanmar military and the Kachin independence Army (KIA), one of Myanmar's ethnic armed militias, have forced thousands of locals to flee to safety in other parts of the state.
In June, fighting between government soldiers and the KIA forced about 1,000 people to flee the seven wards that comprise the Tanaing gold and amber mining region in Kachin’s Tanaing township. They have been unable to return home, according to the online news journal The Irrawaddy.
A month later, government troops clashed again with KIA soldiers in the state’s Indawgyi region, though no casualties were reported at the time.
Myanmar’s military has been accused of killing civilians and committing other abuses in war-torn Shan state and violence-ridden Rakhine state.
In August 2016, seven soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion 362 admitted to shooting dead five unarmed villagers near a cornfield in volatile northern Shan state and dumping their bodies in shallow graves.
The soldiers had arrived on June 25 in Long Mon village near the subtownship of Mong Yaw looking for ethnic armed troops.
More recently, Myanmar soldiers have been accused of committing atrocities against the minority Rohingya Muslim group in northern Rakhine state in the wake of deadly attacks by terrorists since October 2016.
Reported by Kyaw Soe Lin for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.