Myanmar military captures, kills local employees of Chinese copper mining company 

Two of five locals abducted by junta forces in southern Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin and Salingyi townships were found murdered on Wednesday evening. The deceased men were identified as employees at a Chinese company leading a major copper mining project in the area. 

The residents had been displaced by military assaults on villages in the area and were taking shelter near the community of Done Taw when they were captured on Wednesday afternoon. Three of the men were released soon after, but the bodies of Kyaw Nyein, 38, and Chit Thein Zaw, 34, were discovered later that evening. 

Both men had worked for the Myanmar branch of Yangtse Copper Co. Ltd. Kyaw Nyein was a staff member in the processing department and Chit Thein Zaw was a drill operator, according to locals. 

The bodies of the victims, found with signs of torture, gunshot wounds and their hands tied behind their backs (Supplied)

Yangtse is a subsidiary of Wanbao Mining, which jointly operates the controversial Letpadaung mining site in the area with the Union of Myanmar Economic Holdings Ltd. (UMEHL), a military conglomerate. Yangtse jointly operates two other nearby copper mines at Sabetaung and Kyisintaung with UMEHL, known as the S&K mines.

Kyaw Nyein and Chit Thein Zaw were found with multiple injuries, suggesting they had suffered severe abuse while they were held by the troops. 

“The injuries suggest that they were tortured. They had their hands tied behind their backs,” a local man told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity.

“Kyaw Nyein’s face was misaligned due to the amount of torture he was subjected to. He also had a bullet wound in his forehead,” he continued. “Chit Thein Zaw had bullet wounds to his chest and head. It appeared that they were shot at close range.”

The victims were residents of Ywar Thar village in Salingyi Township but were later left in the cemetery of Kan Kone village, near the Kyisintaung copper mine. 

“Their motorcycle was in bad condition, so it made a lot of strange noises and it’s most likely that the military thought they were setting up explosive devices,” the local man explained, citing statements from the surviving abductees who were released. “From when they were first taken, they had their hands tied behind their backs. They weren’t killed in front of the other three victims. They were first used as guides through the area and then killed after the others were released.”

The source said he knew Kyaw Nyein personally, and that he had been taking part in the general strike as part of the Civil Disobedience Movement and therefore refusing to go to work at Yangtse. 

The bodies of the two men were cremated on Thursday morning. 

The military council has not released any information concerning their murder. 

A junta column of some 100 soldiers—reportedly stationed near the Yangtse office in the area since early May—had been launching assaults on villages surrounding the Kyisintaung mine since Tuesday, burning nearly 40 homes in total, according to local sources. Most recently, on Thursday morning, the village of War Tan, south of the mining project, was also reportedly torched.

The Myanmar army has repeatedly denied responsibility for arson attacks across the country, instead blaming the anti-junta People’s Defence Forces for the acts.

Residents of War Tan, as well as Done Taw, Shwe Pan Khaing, Tein Pin Kan and Thea Taw Gyi, all fled this week’s attacks, but encountered heavy rains which forced them to remain in the area. 

Locals displaced by military assaults on their villages flee in the rain on May 25 (Supplied)

Photographs seen by Myanmar Now show locals leaving their villages and carrying their belongings on motorcycles or in ox-drawn carts down muddy roads.

“The Yamar stream is currently flooding, so there are not many routes left for the displaced locals to escape through. It’s very troubling,” the local man who spoke to Myanmar Now said. 

Some 16 local defence forces active in Yinmabin and Salingyi townships released a joint statement in April calling on the Wanbao and Yangtse companies to halt their operations at the Letpadaung and S&K mining sites by May 5, accusing them of propping up the junta. 

The companies released a joint statement on May 4 claiming that they had been threatened by resistance groups active in the area. They alleged that there were “rumors” and “groundless accusations” circulating concerning their projects and claimed to have halted mining operations after the military coup in February of last year. 

The US government hit Wanbao and its subsidiaries with sanctions in July last year over their operations in Myanmar with the military. In March 2021, both the US and the UK sanctioned UMEHL for serving as a financial arm of the junta. 

Related Articles

Back to top button