Four detained resistance fighters die during interrogation by NUG-affiliated police force

Four members of an armed resistance group active in Myaung Township, Sagaing Region, have died while in the custody of the People’s Security Force (PSF), which operates under the command of the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG).

Zaw Moe, head of the local Zarmani Group operating in Sagaing Region’s Myinmu and Myaung townships, was arrested on June 1 by the PSF along with three of his comrades on suspicion of involvement in a murder. The victim was a member of the people’s administration team, also affiliated with the NUG.

Zaw Moe

In communications with Myanmar Now on Tuesday, spokesperson for the Sagaing Region PSF San Phe confirmed that Zaw Moe and the three other members of the Zarmani group had died.

“It is certain that Zaw Moe has died but that is as much as we can tell. We still cannot disclose how he died nor other details. However, we may be able to tell you depending on what the report says when it arrives,” San Phe said.

“We have instructed them to report the incident in detail,” he added, referring to the township-level PSF. “That’s all we can do for now. I still haven’t received the report regarding the claims that he was killed during interrogation from the township PSF chief.”

Phoe Htaung, a regional officer of the people’s administration team, went missing in Ma Yoe Kone village, Myaung Township, on March 26. Having found and examined two bullet casings near where he was last seen, the PSF concluded that he had been murdered by the Zarmani Group.

Several members of the Zarmani group were detained for questioning and subsequently released. However, the group’s leader Zaw Moe, 40, remained in custody when it was determined that he was in Ma Yoe Kone village when Phoe Htaung went missing.

Hla Myo Oo, a fellow Zarmani Group member and leader of the local defence team of Pa Dat Taing village, Myinmu Township, was detained by force along with two other members of the group in the early early morning hours of June 1, according to Doe Gyi, the deputy leader of the Zarmani Group.

Kan Gyi Maung, leader of the Myaung Township people’s administration team, said that contrary to protocol he had received little information from the PSF about Zaw Moe and his comrades after they reported the arrests.

“They reported to us around 10 days ago that they had detained three persons but didn’t provide many details. The PSF officer only said that it was ‘Zaw Moe and his team,’” Kan Gyi Maung said.

This was a breach of directives that require consistent reporting to the people’s administration team and adherence to due process in cases involving resistance fighters, according to Kan Gyi Maung.

“I just want things to be lawful as possible, because we are all fighting against injustice. It doesn’t matter if they were guilty of the crime, we need to take lawful actions regardless of the person,” he said.

Doe Gyi—the deputy leader of the Zarmani Group—and Yakkha—the commander of Sagaing District PDF Battalion 1—claimed that an officer of the Myaung Township PSF named Myint Tin had broached the subject of the detainees’ deaths in custody in an online conference with officials of the NUG’s home affairs ministry on June 10.

“He confessed during the online conference,” Yakkha said, referring to Myint Tin. “The Myaung Township people’s administration team leader called us, as did the people’s defence team leader of Sagaing District. They said he admitted to taking the interrogation too far.”

As early as January 6, Yakkha and Doe Gyi had expressed concern for Zaw Moe’s safety, saying the PSF was subjecting him to brutal mistreatment during his interrogation.

Following the deaths, Yakkha described the incident as a violation of the NUG’s rules and regulations.

“This is going against the direction that the NUG laid down. Even if Zaw Moe did commit the crime, he should have been put on trial for appropriate punishment. People who didn’t know the law had no right to execute him,” Yakkha said.

Zaw Moe’s wife, Cho, claims that although she submitted the correct documents, including the required recommendation letters from Myaung Township and Sagaing District NUG officials, the the PSF had denied her requests to visit her husband in detention before his death.

“Justice must be served. I will take this grudge not only to my grave but through 10 more reincarnations after I die,” Cho said.

NUG officials at the township and district level have accepted a case filed by Cho requesting that they address the incident, but the NUG has yet to issue any additional public statement saying how they would respond.

Zaw Moe is survived by his wife and three sons. His eldest son, 22, is a member of Sagaing District PDF Battalion 1 and his second son, 18, is serving as a soldier in the anti-junta drone force.

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