Perpetrators unidentified in spate of recent murders in Hpakant

Some locals suspect the military or its supporters of committing the recent killings, and even planting evidence at murder scenes, to frame anti-junta groups

Amid fierce, ongoing fighting in and near Hpakant, Kachin State, an unusually high number of unsolved murders occurred in the area this month, according to local sources.

One woman and five men were killed in Hpakant in several cases with little evidence of connections among them between the beginning of August and last Thursday. The perpetrators have not been identified. 

The bodies of two young men were found with their hands tied behind their backs and gunshot wounds on a road in Hpakant Township’s Yumar ward last Wednesday. 

A sign saying “Military dog. Thief. Robber” had been placed on the bodies. Hpakant residents suspect the perpetrators put it there to make people think the anti-junta People’s Defence Forces or Kachin Independence Army (KIA) had committed the murders. 

The same day, locals found a man’s body with knife wounds at the Hparpyin jetty on the Uyu River. Then, at around 10pm that night, two men arrived at Green City Karaoke bar in Lone Khin village on a motorcycle and shot the 50-year-old manager dead.

A 40-year-old local man supportive of the anti-junta armed resistance speculated that supporters of the military regime might be behind the murders. 

“It’s still under investigation who committed all these killings, but we’re sure it’s not from our side. The military tries to defame the PDF with tricks like this,” he added.

A week before last Wednesday’s murders, the body of Kay Thwe Oo, 22-year-old woman living in Whay Khar village, some five miles south of Hpakant, was found in the woods outside the village. Her body had knife wounds to the neck. 

This recent spate of murders comes shortly after KIA forces seized control of a junta base on Ka Thine Hill base, located a few miles southwest of Hpakant, from the army on August 7.

Before the junta base fell to the KIA, locals had also found a body near Hseng Taung village on August 1, but were unable to identify the victim due to extensive decomposition of the remains. 

“We have to live in fear not just of the war, but of being murdered and robbed out of the blue,” said a local woman in her 40s. “My only reason to keep running my shop is because I need the money. I don’t want to live here anymore, to be honest.”

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