Shanni organisations protest murder of prominent monk

Ethnic Shanni organisations have expressed outrage over the killing last week of a senior monk in Sagaing Region’s Banmauk Township, allegedly by anti-junta groups active in the area.

In joint statement released on Thursday, a total of 28 groups accused the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and the Banmauk People’s Defence Force (PDF) of murdering Ven. Gandamar, the abbot of a monastery in the Banmauk village of Naung Pat.

“The KIA and the PDF must be held accountable for their actions,” the groups said in their statement.

According to an ethnic Shanni activist who did not wish to be named, several armed personnel in plainclothes arrived in Naung Pat at around 6am on September 4 and demanded to see the monastery’s head monk.

“There were at least 10 of them, and more waiting outside the monastery compound. They said their leader wanted to talk to the head monk and then they took him,” said the activist, citing village residents.

Later that night, he said, the villagers heard a gunshot. The following morning, one of the armed personnel showed a group of local youths where the monk’s body had been buried.

The body was later exhumed and confirmed to be that of Ven. Gandamar, he added.

Myanmar Now tried to contact the KIA’s information officer, Col. Naw Bu, for comment on the incident, but did not receive a response.

A spokesperson for the Banmauk PDF declined to answer questions, saying that investigations were still underway.

Naung Pat is located about 55km north of the town of Banmauk and about 15km from the village of Ashay Kone, where anti-regime forces clashed last month with the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA), a group aligned with Myanmar’s military.

The SNA also blamed the KIA and the PDF for the murder of Ven. Gandamar—a prominent figure in efforts to promote Shanni culture—and said that it would retaliate against both groups.

Meanwhile, videos have been circulating on social media since last week allegedly showing SNA troops beheading PDF members in Sagaing’s Homalin Township.

Col Sai Aung Mein, the SNA spokesperson, denied that the group was responsible for the acts depicted in the videos, which he dismissed as “propaganda”.

“Even if we manage to capture prisoners of war, all we will do is detain them in accordance with our pre-existing policies. After questioning them, we always just let them go,” he said.

Myanmar Now has yet to confirm the identities of the victims or the perpetrators in the video.

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