The following case study is from the joint report “Invisible Lives: The Untold Story of Displacement Cycle in Burma” by Human Rights Foundation of Monland (HURFOM), Burma Link, and Burma Partnership, which was launched in a press conference in Rangoon on August 12th and in Moulmein on August 15th. The 65-page report focuses on the continuing concerns of the displaced ethnic nationality communities, particularly the ethnic Mon, living along Burma’s southeast border and finds that the recent reforms have not yet addressed the causes of their displacement.
Download the full report in English here.
အစီရင္ခံစာ ျမန္မာဘာသာကုိ ဤေနရာတြင္ ရယူႏုိင္သည္။
The following is the first case study in a series that HURFOM, Burma Link and Burma Partnership will be publishing in the coming weeks along with a series of selected interviews. The series is meant to give more in depth understanding into the situation of Mon IDPs and villagers. See methodology in the report.
While major armed conflict between the NMSP [New Mon State Party] and the Burma Army has not been observed since the 1995 ceasefire, security concerns expressed by the IDPs in NMSP controlled areas are very real as the Burma Army continues to act with impunity. The presence of the Burma Army remains a key source of insecurity among villagers in areas where the NMSP relinquished control after the ceasefire in 1995.
On March 8, 2016, Captain Zaw Myo Thet from LIB No. 280 of the Burma Army shot and killed 40-year-old Nai Ah Moem who died immediately at the scene, at 11:30pm and his nephew 23-year-old Nai Chit Soe who later died of blood loss on March 9, 2016 at 2am. The two had worked as fishermen in Magyi Chaung Wa village, which is also located in Khaw Zar sub-township in southern Ye Township off the coast of the Andaman Sea. According to their family members and an eyewitness to the murder, the soldiers shot them without identifying themselves.
Many of the men in the village rely on fishing to make ends meet and Nai Ah Moe had just left the house to repair his net. Nai Ah Moe, who was disabled, was reportedly shot six times2 by the Burma Army and found with a laceration on his face. Nai Chit Soe was also shot three times, but the injury did not kill him right away.3 An eyewitness stated that after Nai Chit Soe was shot “he fell down on the ground. The soldiers picked him up and kicked him like a ball. They tortured him seriously. Even though Chit Soe yelled that he was a villager, they didn’t stop beating him. I saw everything because it was in front of my house.”4
While Nai Chit Soe was found alive when his family found him, Captain Zaw Myo Htet would not allow the relatives to leave the village for urgent medical care at a hospital, shooting their guns into the air to stop the villagers from leaving. Nai Chit Soe died before he could receive care at the hospital.
The family reported the incident to the nearby LIB 31 and the Khaw Zar sub-township police. While they have been offered compensation, the family has refused to accept it, and has chosen to seek justice.
Captain Zaw Myo Thet is being charged under Burma’s penal code, Article 302, however the Captain fled three days after the incident and the charges are being investigated under court martial.5 The family is requesting the case to be transferred to civilian court.
Under the 2008 Constitution, the military remains constitutionally immune from prosecution by civilian courts and authorities often lack the political will to find the perpetrators, allowing decades of impunity enjoyed by the Burma Army to continue. Civil society, human rights organizations and the international community have continuously urged the government to “ensure that members of the military who perpetrate serious crimes against civilians, including murder and rape are prosecuted, and that such cases are transferred to civilian courts.”6
The Captain told the family that he had mistaken the victims for “their enemy,” the Mon splinter groups operating in the area, and shot the wrong person. The family was outraged by this explanation stating “Ah Moe, the one he shot first, didn’t have a leg, so I want to ask have you ever seen the enemy [splinter group] who has one leg? They should know that.”
Because the victims are both related to the village head administrator Nai Kai, it is alleged that the victims may have been mistakenly targeted in a bid by the Captain to murder the village administrator, Nai Kai. Villagers in Magyi Chaung Wa were ordered to provide a regular contribution, a bag of rice and 100,000 kyat (84 USD) a month, to the LIB no. 280. Unable to fulfill this request, witnesses have stated that the village headman, Nai Kai, had angered LIB no. 280.7
In pursuing justice for the victims, LIB no. 280 Major Aung Ko Win has used intimidation to silence the village head administrator Nai Kai, threatening to send him to prison for continuing to speak out about the case.8 In May 2016, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission opened an investigation into the case.9