Myanmar armed resistance group members accused of rape and murder 

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 itself

The 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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