Bodies of 10 civilians used as human shields discovered in Matupi

The bodies of 10 civilians, including a 13-year-old child, believed to have been used by regime forces as human shields were discovered in southern Chin State’s Matupi Township over the weekend, according to local sources.

The victims were among 11 villagers abducted by the military late last week during clashes that took place between the villages of Keihlung and Lunghlaw, about 20 miles outside of Matupi, Nway Oo Linn, a spokesperson for the local chapter of the Chinland Defence Force (CDF), told Myanmar Now on Monday.

Three of the bodies, including that of a 13-year-old boy, were found dead on a hill near Keihlung on Saturday, he said. All three had been stripped of their clothes.

The other seven bodies were discovered in a wooded area near the village. Most had multiple knife wounds and some had been shot, according to the CDF-Matupi spokesperson.

“Their hands were tied behind their backs and their mouths were covered with pieces of cloth. There were deep cuts on their necks and stab wounds in their chests,” he said.

The whereabouts of the 11th abducted villager is still unknown, he added.

According to the Chin media outlet Khonumthung, its founder and editor-in-chief, Pu Tui Dim, was among those killed.

Pu Tui Dim was also a founding member of Burma News International (BNI), the ethnic media alliance confirmed in a January 13 statement.

BNI described him as a journalist “who helped pave the way for independent news media in Chin State.” His death, the coalition said, is “an enormous loss not only for ethnic media but also for the whole media community in Myanmar.”

Another local outlet, the Chin-language Chinland Post, identified seven of the victims as Pu Tui Dim, Salai Steven, Mamar Pa, Pu Va Htoo, Puhpa Sali, Pa Tin San and 13-year-old Pa Le Nang.

The victims were all male, between the ages of 13 and 65, according to reports.

The CDF-Matupi spokesperson said that the villagers were abducted by troop’s from Light Infantry Battalion 140 as “local guides” during an offensive on a CDF base located in the area.

“Using civilians who are not involved in armed clashes during battles is a war crime,” he said, condemning the military’s actions.

The Chin Human Rights Organisation (CHRO) also warned of possible war crimes being committed by junta forces in Chin State. On Sunday, after the discovery of the 10 bodies, it released a statement calling for accountability and justice for the victims.

“The military junta must be held accountable and brought to justice for their crimes against the Chin people,” it said on Twitter, adding that some 800 civilians have been displaced by recent clashes in Matupi.

The victims were all male, between the ages of 13 and 65, according to reports (The Chinland Post)

The clashes began after the CDF attacked a military base in the Theboi area along the Matupi-Paletwa road last Monday. Fighting broke out again following a second attack on the base the next day.

According to the CDF, at least five junta soldiers were killed and another 10 were injured in the initial attack. A CDF member was injured when fighting resumed at 10am the next day, the group said.

Clashes were also reported on the road between Matupi and Hakha on Thursday morning.

The junta’s information officers have not answered Myanmar Now’s calls for comment regarding the battles in Chin State and the displacement of locals.

According to a statement released by the Institute of Chin Affairs last Thursday, more than 160 ethnic Chin people have been killed by the regime since it seized power in a coup last February. Of these, 87 were civilians and 76 were armed resistance members, it said.

Editor’s Note: This article was updated to include information from BNI’s statement on Pu Tui Dim. 

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