The rebel Kachin Independence Army in Myanmar has detained five of its fighters for killing two teenaged boys from the Shan Ni ethnic group after taking them captive on July 6, promising to punish the killers and compensate victim’s families, sources in Kachin State said Friday.
The KIA, which is battling Myanmar government forces for greater autonomy in Kachin State, has admitted its troops killed the two boys and promised to apologize and compensate their families, but denied that the killings were ordered by senior commanders. Family members learned of the killings only 16 days later.
“The persons responsible for killing the two Shan boys are our members, but this does not mean the KIA/KIO [Kachin Independence Organization] ordered the killings,” KIA Colonel Naw Bu told RFA’s Myanmar Service on Friday.
“The KIA is not directly responsible for the killings,” Naw Bu added, saying that an investigation into the deaths is still ongoing and that the KIA is now trying to return the boys’ bodies to their parents.
The two boys, both 17, were identified as Thant Zin Aung, a student at Monywa University, and Zaw My Oo, a student in the 10th grade, and were abducted while vacationing in Hpakant township in northern Myanmar’s Kachin state.
They were taken into custody by KIA troops in Hpakant’s Sal Zinn village after becoming involved in a fight while gambling, Thant Zin Aung’s father Eik Sann told RFA.
“They were taken away in the trunk of a car. They were having a picnic during a farewell party, and wandered off to Sal Zinn village,” the boy's father said.
“They were supposed to go back to school on July 7,” he added.
Sai Htay Aung from the Tai Leng (Shan Ni) Nationalities Development Party said that the KIA had informed community leaders on July 22 of the killings, with the rebel army adding that a formal apology would be made to the boys’ parents and compensation paid for the deaths.
“They said they have detained five soldiers who are responsible for the deaths and have promised to punish them,” he said.
Ethnic Shan people have been the targets of frequent abuse by KIA soldiers in recent years, with extortion, forced recruitment, and killings all reported by victims and grieving family members, local activists and rights groups say.
The Shan Ni (also known as the Red Shan) are a subgroup of the Shan, which is Myanmar’s second largest ethnic group after the majority Bamar, and live in Kachin State and northern Sagaing Region.
Reported by Elizabeth Jangma for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Richard Finney.