Military kills elderly, displaced couple in southern Shan State

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

A junta force carrying out assaults on the border between Shan and Karenni (Kayah) states reportedly killed four displaced people, including an elderly couple, at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp on Sunday.

Soldiers killed Mu Lu, 81, and her husband Hla Nyein, 78, shortly after arriving at the camp near Hle Htun village, Pekhon Township, torching their house with the couple still inside, according to a relative of the victims and two locals. 

The soldiers also killed 15-year-old Kyaw Huu and 45-year-old Than Aung, who were also staying in the camp, the same sources said. 

The IDP camp is located on a hill about two hours from Lel Tun by foot. Close to 70 IDP families from Hle Htun, Hpalai Leng Taung Chae and other nearby villages in Pekhon Township have taken refuge there.

Because the camp’s residents had to flee as soon as junta forces arrived and did not witness the killings in person, details about the victims’ deaths remain unclear. 

Hla Nyein had been able to move up and down the hill freely despite his age, but his wife had impaired vision. While the precise cause of their deaths is unconfirmed, some of the couple’s neighbours assumed that they were tied up inside the house and burned to death, according to a local villager.

“The husband could still walk around the neighbourhood, but his wife was essentially blind. The old man always used to go up and down the hill to get water, so there’s no reason he couldn’t have helped his wife out of the burning house if they weren’t tied up,” the villager said.

Hla Nyein (left) and Mu Lu (right) (Pekhon People’s Defence Force Battalion 2)

The daughter of one of the victims, who spoke to Myanmar Now on condition of anonymity, said she did not witness her father’s death, having fled as soon as the soldiers came to the camp.  However, she later heard his body had bullet wounds to the head and chest. 

“There was no fighting taking place, but the military still came and started torching houses and shooting and killing people. The [resistance forces] only came later,” a man from Hpalai Leng Taung Chae village said. 

Anti-junta defence team members arrived at the hill around 3pm and clashed with military forces, according to locals. The victims’ bodies were found on Monday morning, after the junta troops withdrew.

The IDPs who had been staying at the camp on the hill have still not gone back, and the victims were all civilians without prior involvement in the conflict, local sources confirmed. 

According to a statement released on Monday by Battalion 2 of the Pekhon People’s Defence Force (PDF), a junta column from Light Infantry Division 66 clashed with allied anti-junta fighters of Pekhon PDF Battalion 2, Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) Battalion 3, and the Urban Revolutionary Front (URF) at the IDP camp.

The junta forces not only deployed artillery, but also reportedly bombed the area using military aircraft three times, starting around 5:30pm. The battle continued until 7pm that evening, with the alliance capturing military supplies and the bodies of four junta soldiers, according to the resistance forces’ statement.

A member of Pekhon PDF Battalion 2 and a member of KNDF Battalion 3 were also killed in the battle, the statement said.

The military council has made no public statements about the fighting or the deaths of the IDPs. 

Junta forces have clashed frequently with armed resistance forces in southern Shan state. In the village of Nanneint, Pinlaung Township, located just north of Pekhon Township, military forces massacred nearly 30 people sheltering in a monastery on March 11. 

The military council has referred to accusations about the massacre as “rumours,” but has not issued a direct denial.

Pinlaung Township, Shan State, also shares a border with Naypyitaw Union Territory, the site of Myanmar’s administrative capital. 

Junta forces’ recent assaults have forced thousands of civilians living near the border between Shan and Karenni states to flee their homes.

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