Series of murders in Mandalay suspected of links to military, vigilante group

The bodies of at least nine murdered people have been disposed of on the roads of Mandalay Region since early June, with the perpetrators at times leaving symbols identifying the victims as having been targets of the pro-junta Thway Thout vigilante group, according to local sources. 

During the first days of July, three men were found dead, killed and dumped on roadsides: one near Nage and Patheingyi villages, in front of the Waso monastery in Sein Pan ward, and along the Sita-Min Ye Hla road in Patheingyi Township.

Yet the first body in this series of murders was that of a 40-year-old man riddled with wounds, blindfolded, and left on a road between the villages of Thar Lun Phyu and Taung Pyone in Madaya Township on June 9. A card with an illustration of a scale of justice and the phrase “the fate of all extremists” was left at the scene. 

Another man was found dead on June 21 between 40th and 90th streets in Sein Pan ward of Maha Aungmyay Township. The next day a slain 40-year-old woman was left on the Mandalay-Pyin Oo Lwin road in Thammadaw village in Patheingyi Township. Almost a week later, on June 28, the body of another 40-year-old man was dumped in Ywar Shay village. Two 30-year-old men were found dead on the road near Shan Kalay Kyun in Amarapura Township on June 30, with red lanyards left on their bodies attached to the logo of Thway Thout, a man with two swords, crouched and ready to pounce.

Burmese for “blood-sworn comrades,” the Thway Thout group first appeared in April 2022, declaring the start of a campaign of violence targeting members of the anti-regime resistance and the ousted National League for Democracy (NLD) party, as well as journalists and relatives of junta opponents. The military has denied any connection to the group, which locals assume has members belonging to junta-allied militias, ultranationalist groups, and the military-backed Union Solidarity and Development Party. 

A man from Amarapura Township told Myanmar Now that it was believed that the people recently dumped on roads across Mandalay were killed while being tortured in junta custody. 

“They never announce the identities or the addresses of the victims that are found on the roads. I just think they just dispose of the victims that they accidentally killed during interrogation,” he said. 

Myat Htoo, 56, and his son, 21-year-old Ye Myint Mo, both junta-appointed 100-household administrators, were shot dead by gunmen on a motorcycle in Kyun Lone Oak Shaung ward in Chanmyathazi Township on June 23, near the location where the bodies of the two 30-year-olds were left a week later.

The Amarapura local said that members of the NLD whose elected government was ousted by the military in the 2021 coup, as well as urban anti-coup guerrilla fighters, were being targeted “in retaliation for the assassination of administrators and 100-household leaders.”

A Mandalay-based social welfare group estimated that around 10 bodies killed in a similar manner had been recently dumped around the city, speculating that they were “disposed of by the military.” 

Most were found in Mandalay and Madaya Townships, as well as in Kyaukse and Ngazun. Across the entire region, some 20 bodies were found in such a manner over the past month, and up to 100 since the coup in February 2021, according to the social welfare group. 

“They want to instill fear in the public so that they don’t dare to become politically active,” another Mandalay local said.

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