Eight men found dead in Kani Township with clear signs of torture

July 29th, 2021  •  Author:   Fallen Heroes (Kani Township)  •  6 minute read
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A funeral is held for the PDF member who was found dead in the edge of the woods on the evening of July 27 (Supplied)   

Locals say the junta’s troops are responsible for beating, shooting and disfiguring the men, who ranged in age from teenaged to elderly, and were fleeing the military

By Myanmar Now

Locals found the bodies of eight men in two locations in the forest surrounding Zee Pin Twin village in Sagaing Region’s Kani Township on Tuesday.

The discovery followed a clash between the junta’s armed forces and the local People’s Defence Force (PDF) near the village on the previous evening in which a number of villagers and PDF soldiers went missing.

In the locals’ search for the missing people, they initially discovered seven bodies, including some buried together in a fresh grave.

“We found four bodies in a hole and three on the ground, so it was seven in total,” said a villager who was on the search team.

Of the three men who were not buried, one was found hanging from a tree.

The deceased included two elderly men, one man with a disability, and four men between the ages of 18 and 30.

Locals noted that wounds and disfigurement of all of the men’s bodies indicated that they had been subjected to torture.

“One didn’t even have eyes anymore. The others had injuries on their shoulders and chins,” the witness who helped with the exhumation said, describing bruising that looked like it had been inflicted with rifle butts.

“The ones in the hole all had bullet wounds,” he added.

According to a video of the exhumation seen by Myanmar Now, one of the men had had an eye gouged out and his hands were tied.

After surveying the area and the ground conditions, locals fear that there may be as many as five more graves in that area of the forest, each possibly containing multiple bodies.

“We saw that the land near this burial site appeared to have been dug up and refilled as well. We still don’t dare to exhume them again because there’s a risk of landmines,” a Kani-based activist told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity, relaying eyewitness reports.

The three locals that Myanmar Now spoke with said that they had identified the bodies as civilians who had been seeking refuge in the woods from the fighting, as well as PDF members who had been captured by the military.

The villagers re-buried the seven bodies near the site where they were found.

Although the military left Zee Pin Twin on Tuesday morning, they continued to operate in and patrol the area, making it difficult for villagers to continue their search, as well as exhume and identify the bodies.

A spokesperson from the Monywa People’s Defence Force (MPDF) confirmed that they fought alongside locals against the junta’s forces near Zee Pin Twin village on Monday and that six of their members were killed and one went missing.

“Only one died during the battle and the rest got shot in their limbs which incapacitated them. We have some photos suggesting that they were caught and shot to death at close-range,” the group’s spokesperson said. “It can be assumed that the military shot [and killed] all of our injured comrades.”

The MPDF’s casualties were young, and included a 17-year-old who had recently graduated high school.

“He was shot in the thigh and got the other leg broken by the military. There were bruises on his chest that suggested that he was kicked with combat boots. There were cuts on his arms and bruises on his face which suggested that he was hit in the face with a rifle butt,” the spokesperson explained.

He said that they had recorded the names of the dead MPDF members but at the time of reporting, had chosen not to make them public.

The MPDF were ambushed by the military on their way to Zee Pin Twin on Monday, and were forced to retreat due to the imbalance of power, the spokesperson added.

Villagers exhume the bodies buried in the woods west of Zee Pin Twin, Kani Township on July 27 afternoon (Supplied)  

A PDF member from another nearby village who fought in the battle in Zee Pin Twin was also found dead in the surrounding area on Tuesday night. He was brought back to the village for burial, according to his brother, bringing the total number of men found killed that day to eight.

“My brother’s body was found near the edge of the woods. They caught him while he was resting since he could no longer run. He was not only shot, but also got his head smashed to a pulp,” the brother said. “He wasn’t resting because he was injured—he just had bad stamina because he was a smoker. His temple was hit with rifle handles. Half of his head was completely crushed.”

The brother of the deceased PDF member said he had heard that the junta troops had also taken the phones and guns from the men killed near Zee Pin Twin.

The military council has not released a statement regarding the discovery of the bodies or the clear signs of torture.

The murders signify the second recent junta massacre of civilians in the Sagaing Region township this month. On July 10 and 11, Kani locals discovered the bodies of 15 disfigured men strewn across a forest floor following junta raids on three area villages.

“They might be doing this because they believe that the people will be too scared to be involved in politics if they see such violent war crimes being carried out,” the Kani-based activist said.

“The military council isn’t fighting a war. They’re just torturing civilians,” he added.

Sagaing’s Kani and Yinmabin townships have been the site of fierce anti-dictatorship protests, and locals have been resisting the military with hunting rifles and makeshift weapons since April.

The townships have also seen large numbers of civilians displaced, due to military raids on villages.

On July 23 and 24, nine naval vessels on the Chindwin River shot at the Kani Township villages of Sar Pho Gyi, Nat Gyi, Yinyein and Thit Khet, destroying homes and injuring two men and one pregnant woman.

The fighting in Zee Pin Twin and the military occupation of the surrounding area caused the displacement of residents from four other village tracts—Lin Pone Yay, Lal Shay, Twin, and Chaung Ma—according to volunteers helping those who have fled.

Original Post: Myanmar Now