Horrors of war

In Myanmar’s heartland, new horrors from a junta struggling for control

Content warning: This article contains pictures and detailed descriptions of killings, which may be upsetting to some readers.

The time was one o’clock in the morning of March 1, 2023.

Kan Kaung and two friends were asleep in a hut at a farm a few miles from Tar Taing, a village located at the western edge of Sagaing Township, when a group of men in sports pants and regular shirts, but also wearing bullet-proof vests, shook them awake. Kan Kaung, who is in his 20s, felt a chill run up his spine as realised that the men, who were pointing guns directly at them, were Myanmar army soldiers.

There were around 70 of them. They told Kan Kaung and his friends to come with them and made them carry their supply backpacks. Before they knew it, the three young men were marching alongside the junta column near the confluence of the Ayeyarwady and Muu rivers, with only the lights on their mobile phones to help them see their way in the dark.

They didn’t know where they were going, but they could hear some of the soldiers talking indistinctly about their target. “Which one is Kyaw Zaw?” they said, apparently trying to identify someone in a photo.

After around four hours, the soldiers stopped to take a rest. Some slept, but Kan Kaung and the other captives were too terrified to close their eyes. They just held the backpacks tight as they watched and waited. Sitting there tensely, they could also smell alcohol. Finally, after about an hour, they carried on with their journey.

It was just before dawn when they reached Tar Taing. The column then split up into groups of 10. Their leader ordered them not to open fire: “Arrest everyone,” he said. Meanwhile, Kan Kaung and his friends were taken to a house at the western edge of the village by a group of eight soldiers who warned them that they would be killed if they attempted to flee.

Tar Taing is a small village of around 80 households. But before the day was over, it would be the scene of one of the worst massacres carried out by Myanmar’s military since it seized power two years ago. By the time Kan Kaung and his fellow captives were taken away, a total of 17 people, including the resistance leader Kyaw Zaw that the soldiers had been talking about, would be dead—killed and dismembered by the monstrous “Ogre Column” that had been sent to terrorise local residents and resistance fighters alike into submission.

The victims, who included three women, ranged in age from 17 to 67. When their bodies were recovered the day after they were killed, many were found to have bullet wounds to the back of their heads. Pro-junta propaganda outlets claimed they were all “terrorists” opposed to the regime, but Myanmar Now’s investigations have indicated that 47-year-old Kyaw Zaw, who was subjected to the most gruesome treatment, was the only non-civilian among them.

A map shows the locations of villages targeted by the LID 99 column in Ayadaw, Myinmu and Sagaing townships

A new level of savagery

Two years after overthrowing Myanmar’s elected civilian government, the country’s military has escalated its terror tactics against its opponents and those who support them. In February, it declared martial law in 14 Sagaing townships, although not the one with the region’s namesake, where Tar Taing is located, nor Myinmu, just a few miles away. Still, since then, in these townships it has engaged in some of its worst atrocities, sowing not only death and destruction, but also making a display of its savagery by sharing photos of corpses desecrated by its troops in the most hideous fashion.

In Tar Taing, the Ogre Column didn’t simply force its way in and start torching houses and killing villagers unable to flee; it crept up on its inhabitants, captured them, and then murdered them at will. And when that was done, it turned the bodies into photographic trophies to instil terror in a public already appalled by the military’s cruelty. A day after the massacre in Tar Taing, Myanmar Now spoke to Kan Kaung and four residents of the village who witnessed this barbaric behaviour first-hand. All names have been changed for their protection.

A butchered body

From the house where he was being held, Kan Kaung could easily hear the screams and cries coming from the monastery on the opposite side of the village. But he also saw some of those who would later be killed, including a woman in her late 30s or early 40s and an elderly man who were both brought into the house. The woman had her hands tied behind her back and had been accused of having a gun in her house.

The entire village was filled with the sound of soldiers shouting threats at those they had captured, but no shots were fired for the first three hours after the raid began. Then a shootout with local resistance forces started. This clash lasted about half an hour and included the eight soldiers who were guarding the house. Kan Kaung remained perfectly still the whole time, mindful of the soldiers’ threat to kill him if he tried to escape.

After the fighting stopped, another soldier entered the house and showed a photo of a man with multiple gunshot wounds to the two Tar Taing villagers, demanding to know if the man was Kyaw Zaw. After looking at the soldier’s phone, the villagers confirmed that the victim was, in fact, Kyaw Zaw. After receiving the answer he wanted, the soldier went to get a meat cleaver and left the house again.

When he returned about half an hour later, the soldier no longer had the cleaver. But he had a new photo on his phone that he insisted on pushing into the faces of the two captured villagers.

“He showed his phone to the villagers and told them that this is what happened to Kyaw Zaw. He also told them to take notes,” Kan Kaung told Myanmar Now.

The soldier asked Kan Kaung if he wanted to see the photo, too, but he said he didn’t dare look at it. The photo, as he later learned, showed Kyaw Zaw’s body, not just dead, but also decapitated, dismembered and eviscerated.

The dismembered and disembowelled body of Kyaw Zaw (left) and the bodies of other locals taken as hostages from Tar Taing (Supplied)

Murder in the monastery

U Moe, a Tar Taing resident in his 60s, was among the 100 or so villagers who were held in the village’s monastery throughout the nearly 24-hour ordeal. Soon after he was captured, he and around 10 other elderly villagers were taken to the monastery’s main building, while some others who had their hands tied behind their backs were forced to lie face down on the ground in the monastery compound.

“The soldiers called themselves the ‘Ogre Column.’ They said they weren’t going to torch the village, but were just looking for PDFs,” he said, referring to members of the anti-regime People’s Defence Force.

According to U Moe, the soldiers had a list of names on their phones that they used to separate the villagers into different groups. Around 80 people who were not on the list filled the building that he was in, which housed the monastery’s altar and Buddha images. This group was further divided by gender, with the men staying upstairs and the women downstairs, he said.

The ones lying on the ground outside were all people whose names were on the list. They were also joined by a few villagers accused of trying to escape or of talking back to the soldiers.

The soldiers called themselves the ‘Ogre Column.’ They said they weren’t going to torch the village, but were just looking for PDFs

Although the windows and doors of the monastery’s main building were all closed, U Moe said he could clearly hear what was happening outside. The soldiers were beating the captives they had tied up, who were crying out in agony. Occasionally, this sound would be punctuated by that of a gunshot. 

This continued until around 5pm, he said. That was when some of the soldiers came back into the building to get a few of the women, who were told to start cooking dinner for them and the other prisoners. (On the other side of the village, Kan Kaung said he saw soldiers catching chickens for the women to cook. They also stole dried beef from the villagers’ homes, he added.)  

After eating, the soldiers settled in for the night. A few were assigned to guard duty, occasionally firing their guns out into the darkness whenever the resistance sources shot at them to remind them that they were still there.

Locals transport the bodies of slain Tar Taing villagers across the Muu River from Nyaung Yin (Supplied)

A trail of bodies

The next morning, the Ogre Column set off in the direction of Nyaung Yin, a village about 4km west of Tar Taing. The column was divided into four groups this time, each one accompanied by a number of hostages. The first group left at around 7am, but the third group, which included Kan Kaung and his friends and five other men, didn’t leave until 8am.

Before reaching Nyaung Yin, Kan Kaung and his friends were separated from the other five, who stayed behind with five soldiers. As he was being led away, Kan Kaung said he heard at least eight gunshots being fired behind him.

“We were scared out of our minds, even though they said they weren’t going to kill us. I asked one of the soldiers what was going to happen to us, and he said that only those who had been tied up would be killed,” Kan Kaung told Myanmar Now.

Later he saw the bodies of other victims—villagers who had gone ahead of them with the first and second groups. 

“There were five bodies in one place, and three more somewhere else. Some were on their stomachs, some on their backs. Some had been shot in the head from the behind while kneeling down,” he said.

When they reached Nyaung Yin, they found that its inhabitants had already fled. The soldiers they were with took over the first abandoned house they approached on the eastern edge of the village. And it was at this point that Kan Kaung and his friends were finally released with a final warning: Don’t try anything.

The bodies of four Tar Taing residents killed in early March (Supplied)

‘I can’t even describe it’

Others who saw the bodies claimed that the victims were not merely murdered, but also tortured and sexually assaulted.

“They were beaten so badly before they were killed that their skulls had caved in. It was so hard to look at. The female victims also appeared to have been sexually assaulted before they were killed,” said a local who was part of the group that retrieved the bodies on March 2.

Ko Kyaw, a member of a local defence team who also helped to collect the bodies, said the underwear of the female victims had been torn and that onions had been forced into their vaginas. Myanmar Now was unable to verify this information.

Despite the brutal treatment they were subjected to, it appeared that almost none of those who had been killed were members of the armed resistance. Most were farmers or fishermen, and a few were from other villages. One, a 35-year-old resident of the neighbouring village of Shwe Hlay named Chit Kaung, was allegedly captured near Tar Taing while trying to find a missing cow.

Locals cremate the bodies of slain Tar Taing villagers on March 2 (Supplied)

Many of the victims were related. Ko Thein, a 25-year-old Tar Taing native, lost his mother, brother, brother-in-law and aunt that day. He survived only because he was not in Tar Taing when the soldiers arrived.

“They killed my family members in such an unimaginable way. I can’t even describe it,” he said.

Two more bodies were later discovered north and south of Tar Taing. One, belonging to a 25-year-old man named Yarhu, was found south of the village on the bank of the Ayeyarwady River. Like Kyaw Zaw, the only confirmed member of the resistance among all the victims, Yarhu’s body was decapitated and dismembered.

“It looked like they put his neck on some kind of chopping block,” said one local who saw the body.

Terrorist actions

The self-described Ogre Column was, in fact, a group of nearly 70 soldiers that had been transported to the village of Ma Lal Thar in Ayadaw Township, some 50km north of Tar Taing, on February 24.

The same column also raided at least 10 villages in Myinmu and Sagaing townships. A total of 23 locals were killed in just one week and seven of them, including five in the village of Pa Dat Taing and two in Tar Taing, were decapitated and dismembered.

Moe Gyo, the leader of the Sagaing-based Sartaung Moe Gyo People’s Defence Team, encountered the Ogre Column in Kandaw, a village in Myinmu Township. Those same soldiers beheaded two members of his group after capturing them.

“They are taunting us and trying to instil fear in us. That is exactly why we can’t forgive them,” he said.

On March 6, the publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) held a press conference highlighting the Tar Taing massacre. Aung Myo Min, the NUG’s human rights minister, said that junta forces have committed at least 32 massacres over the past two years.

“We have proved multiple times how cruel the military is,” he said, addressing the international community. “I have urged you before and I am urging you again. Please stop the military council’s terrorist actions as soon as possible.”

As more deaths confirmed, questions remain about fate of political prisoners taken from Daik-U Prison

Myanmar’s junta claims they were killed while trying to escape after an accident, even though they travelling in separate vehicles to different destinations

Published on 20 july 2023

By Han Thit

The families of Myanmar’s political prisoners have grown increasingly alarmed in recent weeks amid reports of a series of incidents that have left a number of detainees dead or missing.

The first case to be reported involved the alleged killers of pro-junta propagandist Lily Naing Kyaw. But this was soon followed by further reports of prisoners being shot dead under similarly suspicious circumstances.

Kaung Zarni Hein and Kyaw Thura, the two prisoners accused of assassinating Lily Naing Kyaw and another prominent regime supporter in late May, died while trying to escape after being moved from Insein Prison on July 6, according to a press handout given to media outlets close to the military.

However, it has since been confirmed that at least eight more political detainees met the same fate while being transported from Daik-U Prison in Bago Region on June 27. They were among 37 inmates taken from the prison that day.

According to the Former Political Prisoners Society and other sources, around half of the prisoners were supposed to be taken to Thayarwaddy Prison, also in Bago Region, while the other half were to be sent to Insein Prison in Yangon. However, at least 10 did not reach their intended destinations.

Myanmar Now contacted sources close to the families of the detainees who did not arrive at either prison and has confirmed that eight have been notified of their deaths, while two others have yet to receive any information.

The eight prisoners whose deaths have been officially acknowledged were Khant Lin Naing, Pyae Phyo Aung, Aung Myo Thu, Zin Myint Tun, Arkar Thet Paing Myo, Bo Bo Win, Wai Yan Lwin, and Zin Win Htut. All eight were shot dead by security forces while allegedly attempting to escape from custody during an accident that took place during the transfer, their official death notices claimed.

Although the notices were all dated June 27—the day of the transfer—none of them were delivered before July 7, according to the families. The explanation for the deaths was identical on each notice, even though the prisoners were being taken to two different prisons when the alleged “accident” occurred.

The gate of Daik-U Prison (Myawaddy)

Death notice mix-up

The first two deaths to be confirmed were those of Khant Lin Naing and Pyae Phyo Aung, who were, like the others, being held on terror charges. The prisoners involved in the transfers were serving sentences ranging from five years to life imprisonment.

A relative of Khant Lin Naing told Myanmar Now that the notice of his death was shown to his family by Daik-U Prison officials who visited their home in civilian clothing on July 7. It included Khant Lin Naing’s name and prison identification number and bore the seal of Daik-U Prison and the signature of the prison’s head, Kyaw Zeya, the relative said.

The notice letter—which was not given to the family to keep—claimed that Khant Lin Naing “tried to escape from custody by taking advantage of a vehicle accident during the transfer to Thayarwaddy Prison and died after security forces shot at and arrested him.”

The letter confirming the death of Pyae Phyo Aung was also received on July 7, but not by his family. Instead, it was sent to an address in Thanatpin Township, Bago Region, belonging to the wife of Aung Myo Thu, another prisoner who was taken from Daik-U Prison on the same day. The contents of the letter, which was seen by Myanmar Now, were identical to those of the one received by Khant Lin Naing’s family, except for the victim’s personal details and his family’s residential address in Bago Region’s Kyauktaga Township.

After receiving the letter, Aung Myo Thu’s family decided to contact Daik-U Prison authorities to inquire about his situation and whereabouts. The next day, they were told that he had met the same fate as Pyae Phyo Aung and was on a list of prisoners who had been shot dead while being transferred on June 27.

“They said they delivered the death notices according to that list, and it was possible that the letter got delivered to the wrong address because they were not allowed to open the envelope,” said a relative of Aung Myo Thu.

Upon receiving confirmation of their son’s death, Aung Myo Thu’s parents performed Islamic religious rites for him in Yangon on July 14, the relative said. However, like all of the other prisoners who were killed that day, Aung Myo Thu’s body was never returned to his family.

Yangon protesters flash the three-finger resistance salute from the back of a police vehicle in late February 2021 (Sai Aung Main/AFP via Getty Images)

Implausible cause of death

The family of 37-year-old Zin Myint Tun, who had been serving a five-year sentence since his arrest in March 2022, also received the notice letter on July 7. It stated that he died while being transferred to Insein Prison, meaning that he was in a different vehicle from the other victims.

However, the letter claimed that the vehicle that Zin Myint Tun was in also had an accident, and that he had also attempted to take advantage of the situation to escape. It also mentioned that his death was reported to the Daik-U Prison authorities by the Bago Region police command, suggesting that the incident took place in Bago Region, where the others also died.

A former political prisoner with experience of being transferred from Bago Prison to Daik-U Prison under the current regime called the prison authorities’ claims implausible.

“Usually, two or three prison staffers bring the inmates to the vehicles provided for the transfer. All they do is put the prisoners in the vehicle. From there, junta forces take responsibility for security. With prisoners shackled together in pairs with chains, it’s almost impossible for them to even attempt to escape,” he said.

Kyaw Kyaw, the deputy in-charge of the Bago People’s Defense Force (PDF), also noted that the route traveled by the transfer vehicles is densely populated, meaning that it was highly unlikely that nobody witnessed the alleged accident and subsequent shootings.

“There are numerous villages along the road from Daik-U Prison,  leaving no isolated areas whatsoever,” he said, adding: “We believe they were all murdered in one place at the same time.”

The last time any of the prisoners’ families had received any news about them was in late May, when they went to the prison to bring parcels for them, as they were permitted to do every 15 days. At that time, family members were told that the prisoners had either been placed in solitary confinement or transferred to other prisons.

In mid-June, when they returned to the prison to deliver more parcels, they received no further news. However, at the end of the month they were told to collect the parcels they had left during their previous visit, as the prisoners had all been transferred. No further information was provided.

Late notification

The deaths of Arkar Thet Paing Myo and Bo Bo Win were not confirmed until July 14, a full week after the others. Their families also received notices that they had been killed during an escape attempt en route to Thayarwaddy Prison.

Arkar Thet Paing Myo was serving a life sentence handed down in January of last year for engaging in guerrilla activities in Yangon. Bo Bo Win, who was in his 40s, was serving a five-year sentence on terror charges.

The deaths of Wai Yan Lwin and Zin Win Htut were reported by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners on July 19. Wai Yan Lwin had been sentenced to a total of 56 years in prison on a number of terror-related charges, while Zin Win Htut was serving a total of 15 years for similar offences.

A close relative of Zin Win Htut told Myanmar Now that his family was notified of his death on July 18. A letter delivered to his family home in Mandalay Region’s Myingyan Township by a junta administrator said that he was shot dead by security forces for the same reason as the other Daik-U Prison inmates.

The relative said that the last time the family had received news about his situation was on June 24. He was a former vice-chair of the Myingyan University Student Union and a leading member of the Myingyan People’s Strike Committee after the coup. He was captured in Bago along with Pyae Phyo Aung and other student activists in December 2021. He was initially held in Bago Prison, but later transferred to Daik-U Prison, where he was once put in solitary confinement for a month.

The relative also expressed scepticism about the circumstance of his death and that of the others who died on June 27.

“He was being transferred to Thayarwaddy Prison while some of the others from Daik-U were being sent to Insein Prison, but they all ended up in an accident like this?” the relative asked with disbelief.

Still missing

The two detainees who remain unaccounted for since June 27 are Aung Thura Hlaing and Min Bhone Mahar. Aung Thura Hlaing was arrested in October 2021 in the city of Bago, where he was found to be in possession of several handmade weapons and explosive devices. According to a relative, he was serving a 41-year sentence handed down by a regime court.

Min Bhone Mahar was charged together with Khant Lin Naing, Pyae Phyo Aung, Aung Myo Thu, and Wai Yan Lwin for their alleged involvement in guerrilla activities in Bago. At the time of their arrest in late 2021, they and six other individuals were identified by the junta as members of the Bago PDF under the command of Zay Latt, a lawmaker from the ousted ruling party, the National League for Democracy.

Min Bhone Mahar was also a member of the All Burma Federation of Student Unions, of which Khant Lin Naing was the vice chair for Bago District. He and Pyae Phyo Aung were arrested at a hostel in the city of Bago in December 2021, a week after Wai Yan Lwin and Aung Myo Thu were captured together in Ayeyarwady Region’s Hinthada Township.

The families of the missing prisoners have gone to Insein and Thayarwaddy prisons to inquire about them, but have so far received no information about their situation.

The chart published by the military after Min Bhone Mahar, Khant Lin Naing, Zin Win Htut, Pyae Phyo Aung, Wai Yan Lwin and Aung Myo Thu were arrested in December 2021 for guerrilla activities.

‘They must be repaid’

The Bago PDF has carried out a number of major attacks against regime forces. In January, about six months before the Daik-U prisoners were killed, PDF Battalion 3501, overseen by the Bago PDF, ambushed a vehicle south of Naypyitaw on the highway between Yangon and Mandalay, killing military intelligence officers Maj Than Htut and Sgt Myint Aung.

Than Htut reportedly played a significant role in the operation of interrogation centers in Yangon, and both he and Myint Aung were responsible for the arrests of a number of urban guerrilla force members in the city, who they identified through their undercover work.

Earlier this month, members of the same battalion planted a landmine targeting a convoy believed to be carrying a high-ranking military supply officer on the Yangon-Mandalay highway. The Bago PDF claimed that it had intelligence that the convoy would be carrying the junta’s quartermaster general, Lt-Gen Kyaw Swar Lin. At least two of the vehicles in the convoy were destroyed by the landmine, but it hasn’t been confirmed if Kyaw Swar Lin was riding in one of them.

The possibility that the junta murdered the political prisoners who had ties to the Bago PDF in retaliation for these attacks cannot be ruled out. Due to fear of the junta’s reprisals for speaking to media, none of the families of the deceased would comment on the murders or disappearances of their loved ones to Myanmar Now. However, Bago PDF spokesman Kyaw Kyaw warned that his group would seek revenge for murder of his comrades.

“I want to send a message to the military council that they must be repaid for their actions,” he said.

Myanmar armed resistance group members accused of rape and murder 

Published on 5 May 2023

By Maung Shwe Wah

 Seven victims killed by village resistance members in Chaung-U Township, Sagaing Region on August 30, 2022 (Supplied)

Content warning: This report contains descriptions and graphic images depicting the effects of extreme violence and rape, which may be upsetting to some readers. We advise discretion in viewing this content. 

Anti-junta fighters serving under the ranks of Myanmar’s publicly mandated National Unity Government (NUG) allegedly raped and executed captives in their custody, including minors, in the resistance stronghold of Sagaing Region eight months ago.

Sources recently communicated to Myanmar Now that in August of last year, four local resistance members in Chaung-U Township carried out an extrajudicial execution of the seven captives, among whom were five underage adolescents, after detaining them on suspicion of stealing from abandoned village houses and acting as junta informants. In order to respect the wishes of the victims’ families, Myanmar Now is unable to disclose the names of the slain individuals. 

Three of the four female captives, including two 15-year-olds, were raped by their captors before being killed, the sources said. 

These sources, among whom are those who led the probe into the crimes, said that the offenders belonged to the People’s Defence Team (PDT)—commonly known as Pa Ka Pha in Burmese—of a village in southern Chaung-U Township. Not to be confused with the People’s Defence Force (PDF), an NUG umbrella organisation operating as a resistance army throughout the country, the local PDTs are separate groups coordinating military operations with the PDFs under the command of the NUG’s ministry of defence.

The rapes and murders were said to have taken place on August 30, while regime forces were raiding communities in Chaung-U. 

Sources said that one day before the incident, members of the village defence group, including its chief, detained the seven individuals—one 21-year-old man, one 22-year-old woman, two boys aged 16 and 17, and three girls, all 15—for suspected theft. They were later accused of working as junta informants and killed less than 24 hours after their arrest. 

The slain captives’ bodies were buried near the edge of the forest outside the village.

Citing a report of the internal investigation, Zarni Thein, the chief of the Chaung-U Township chapter of the Pa Ka Pha, told Myanmar Now that the bodies of all seven individuals were discovered one day later with knife wounds to their necks. He said that the bodies of three of the female victims were found with all or most of their clothes removed. 

Myanmar Now received photos taken as the township defence group was retrieving the bodies, which showed blood stains that had not yet turned grey, indicating the victims had been killed and buried recently. Knife wounds to the victims’ throats and chests are also visible.

According to Zarni Thein, the township’s Pa Ka Pha initiated an investigation into the incident, and the four resistance members, who were already detained, confessed to the crimes. 

The investigators included Zarni Thein and other Chaung-U Township Pa Ka Pha leaders, as well as medics who examined the dead bodies. The investigation lasted four days, he added.

The offenders were identified as Naing Myo Zaw, the 28-year-old head of the village’s Pa Ka Pha; Myat Thura, 22; Zaw Win Naing, 26; and Ko Naung, 21. Myat Thura was found not to have been involved in the killings, and Ko Naung is the only one not implicated in the rapes of the female victims, said Zarni Thein, citing their confessions.

Chaung-U Township resistance members exhume the bodies of the victims on August 31, 2022 (Myaelatt Athan)

‘Rape her if you want’

Chaung-U is located on the Monywa-Mandalay Highway and the eastern shore of the Chindwin River in Sagaing Region, where several anti-junta resistance forces are active. 

Frequent clashes and gunfights have occurred in the area, with several local civilians arrested or killed, and civilian houses have been torched in junta raids on local villages over the past year.

According to the township Pa Ka Pha, the seven victims were salvaging empty bottles and cans as well as discarded trinkets at the time of their capture. Fearing that the junta might use the incident to justify raids or attacks on the whole community, local sources requested that the village in question not be named. Locals found them searching through wreckage inside a damaged house and brought them to the local defence group. 

After receiving a report from the defence group, led by Naing Myo Zaw, the township chapter of the Pa Ka Pha ordered him to keep the captives in detention and await further instructions. 

However, having received a tip from an individual with no known affiliation to the Pa Ka Pha that the captives were junta informants, Naing Myo Zaw and his comrades interrogated the detainees, discovered that three of them were relatives of junta soldiers, and decided to kill them, said Zarni Thein.

“We were only beginning to suspect that [the detainees] were informants but we didn’t have enough evidence to take action against them. That’s why I told them to keep them in detention,” he told Myanmar Now. 

After interrogating the detainees, Naing Myo Zaw moved them to the southern part of the village, asking 12 other defence team members from his camp to accompany him. 

Naing Myo Zaw removed each victim from the group one by one, killing them by stabbing or cutting their throats, according to Zarni Thein.

We didn’t have enough evidence to take action against them. That’s why I told them to keep them in detention Chaung-U Township resistance group leader

Citing the report he submitted to his immediate supervisors at the district level, Zarni Thein said that Naing Myo Zaw’s first victim was one of the male detainees, the 21-year-old. Naing Myo Zaw killed him by stabbing him in the throat. 

After the killing, he took the young man’s 15-year-old wife to the same place and stripped her clothes off. He allegedly told one of his fellow defence group members, Zaw Win Naing, to “rape her if you want.” 

After his comrade raped the girl with her hands tied behind her back, Naing Myo Zaw killed her in the same way he had killed her husband. He then raped another 15-year-old girl who was among the detainees. 

Another of the defence team members, Myat Thura, repeatedly raped the 22-year-old woman, a mother of two children. 

Other members of Naing Myo Zaw’s group were assigned to stand watch while he was executing detainees, and some of them knifed the victims themselves before he killed them. Most helped him to bury the slain victims’ bodies. 

The township’s resistance personnel went to the village to arrest the men after receiving notification of the executions, Zarni Thein said. During the subsequent investigation, Naing Myo Zaw and three other offenders admitted to the rapes and killings, he added. 

On September 6, one week after the incident, Zarni Thein and other leaders of the Chaung-U Township Pa Ka Pha sent the statements given by the offenders and witnesses to their supervisors at the district level and asked for direction in addressing the matter, he said. 

Sixteen days later, they transferred the four offenders to the custody of their township’s administrative and security force personnel, who operate under the command of the NUG’s ministry of home affairs and are responsible for maintaining the interim rule of law.

According to an activist who is a member of the township’s strike committee, no action has yet been taken against the offenders. 

“No action has yet been taken against them… They’re still even carrying weapons,” said an activist, who requested anonymity out of concern for his personal safety. 

Myanmar Now is unable to verify Zarni Thein’s claims and allegations independently. The township-level administration and the security force have not responded to our requests for comment.

NUG under fire

The Democratic Party for a New Society, an anti-junta political party, condemned the incident and urged the authorised agencies in the resistance to conduct a thorough investigation into the case.

“Such an incident could not only be detrimental to public security but also cause the people to lose faith in the revolutionary forces and harm the image of the revolution itself,” the party said in a statement released on April 24, two days after local media outlet Myaelatt Athan broke the news.

On Thursday, several NUG ministries—for defence; home affairs; justice; and women’s, youth and children’s affairs—issued a joint statement on the incident, vowing to take legal action as soon as possible. 

The statement said that the ministry of women’s, youth and children’s affairs only received a complaint about the incident on January 26, nearly five months after it occurred, and was cooperating with the other departments to carry out the appropriate response. 

However, the statement did not directly acknowledge the alleged rapes of the female detainees and only referred to “lawless actions.” 

“This incident not only breaches the military’s Code of Conduct but also violates women’s and children’s rights and human rights,” the NUG statement said, referring to the statutes governing its armed wing. 

Such an incident could not only be detrimental to public security but also cause the people to lose faith in the revolutionary forces and harm the image of the revolution itselfThe Democratic Party for a New Society

The incident in Chaung-U is not the first time that members of the resistance have been implicated in the killings of civilians accused of being junta informants. Ashin Sopaka, a monk-turned-guerrilla fighter who also goes by the name Thanmani and led the Yinmabin PDF in Sagaing, has also been accused of ordering the murder of more than 20 civilians and resistance members in October 2021. The NUG was criticised for not taking appropriate action against him, despite issuing a statement claiming to have disarmed his battalion. 

Regarding the case in Chaung-U, locals say legal action against the specific offenders will not be sufficient. A local source familiar with the case told Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity that the NUG also needs to strengthen its chain of command to prevent similar acts from being perpetrated in the future.

Township-level defence group chief Zarni Thein offered a similar opinion, saying that, while his group has done what it can in its own capacity, the administration and the people’s security force have to improve their handling of criminal cases like this one.

“Now it seems like we are overlooking crimes committed by our own comrades. We did what we could at the township level, it was all according to policy,” he said.

“We cannot give them immunity just because they are revolutionary fighters…Allowing them to roam freely is not appropriate. We can’t be tolerant to the extent that they can simply do as they please because they’re armed,” Zarni Thein added.


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