The most recent massacre in southern Shan State committed by the Myanmar military junta and its use of an ethnic proxy militia to accuse other ethnic groups of an alleged involvement in a massacre is a reminder of the same pattern and same old tactics used by the Myanmar military to incite hatred between ethnic groups – using the “divide and rule” strategy for its political gain. Such tactics are all too familiar as it was also used to persecute Rohingya, leading to the genocide in 2017. The international community must take immediate and concrete actions to hold this military to account so that justice is served and democracy, rule of law and protection of human rights of all people can be achieved.
In the early morning of 11 March, Myanmar military troops raided Nam Nein Village, Pinlong Township, southern Shan State after launching an airstrike. Following this, the junta troops killed 22 innocent civilians, including three monks, who were sheltering in the monastery. The deep bullet holes in the wall of the monastery showed that victims were lined up and shot from a very close range. According to the autopsy report conducted by the National Unity Government’s (NUG) health officials, the victims had been tortured before being killed as the bodies were found to have broken limbs, bruises as well as knife wounds. The Ministry of Human Rights indicated that a total of 766 civilians, including 62 children, were killed in 64 mass killings of more than five civilians since the attempted coup. During the first two weeks of March this year, 51 civilians were massacred in four mass killings.
In an attempt to incite racial hatred, the military junta and its proxy militia, the Pa-O National Organization (PNO), alleged that a local resistance group, the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF), had been involved in the Nam Nein massacre. A day later, a rally was organized by the PNO in Taunggyi, Shan State amplifying the junta’s narratives.
There were ample indications that the military junta was responsible for the massacre, including a post by the pro-junta’s Telegram channels which were the first to publish the photos of victims’ bodies with captions about, “teaching a lesson to Kayah [Karenni] PDF – killing 24 PDF by our snipers”. Cartridges and paper ammo boxes which were scattered around the dead bodies were labeled KaPaSa, which is the junta’s arms factory, also known as the Myanmar Directorate of Defence Industries. This clearly indicates that the junta soldiers used these bullets to commit its atrocity crimes, which has been increasing in its scale and brutality. The Special Advisory Council for Myanmar has previously urged states to investigate and initiate legal proceedings against companies whose products are enabling the KaPaSa to produce weapons used by the Myanmar military stating, “Foreign companies that profit from the suffering of the Myanmar people must be held accountable.”
Despite the clear and numerous indications of military’s hand in committing the mass murder, false news and hate speech were spread on social media platforms to incite racial hatred – for example posts were circulated highlighting that most of the victims were ethnic Pa-O and alluding to KNDF activity in the region.
In response, the Pa-O National Federal Council (PNFC), comprised of the political leadership body of Pa-O armed resistance forces, members of the Civil Disobedience Movement and Pa-O civil society organizations, stressed in a statement that the junta intends to sow mistrust between Pa-O and Karenni people. Attributing the root cause of the massacre to the Myanmar military’s attempted coup, the group highlighted the fact that the current conflict in the region is “not about race or religion” and reminding what is at stake for the revolution in Myanmar amid acts of instigations of falsehood by the junta and its lackey, the PNO. Aung San Myint, the chair of the Karenni State Consultative Council (KSCC), said in an interview to Myanmar Now that it was obvious that the military junta was spreading false news with the intention of creating racial conflict between ethnic groups. Karenni civil society organizations also warned that the Myanmar military is deliberately inciting ethnic, religious, and territorial conflicts and all parties in the region to be cautious of its act that could stimulate ethnic conflicts in the region, while declaring their solidarity with the Pa-O, Shan and other ethnic communities. Such calls are salient, particularly in considerations of Min Aung Hlaing’s recent meeting with U Aung Kham Hti, the Patron of the PNO.
These attempts at incitement of racial hatred are not new to the Myanmar military propagandists. Looking back to the past, the same Myanmar military has used the same pattern of incitements and committed same pattern of atrocities and mass destruction against ethnic communities including the Rohingya, sowing distrust and mistrust along the way in its attempt to “divide and conquer” groups for decades. Such patterns are now repeated to divide communities who have stood strong against the military’s campaign of terror to stamp out the nationwide democratic resistance movement. As it continues to face fierce resistance by the people, the military junta is once again playing the cards of race and religion by inciting conflict between communities in southern Shan State.
It must not be forgotten that this is the same military and the same war criminals who ordered “clearance operations” against the Rohingya in 2017. Without being held accountable for their crimes against the Rohingya and other ethnic minorities for decades, they have now grown emboldened to perpetrate more heinous crimes against both majority and minority populations, in different parts of the country. The Myanmar military’s institutionalized barbaric mindset will not change until and unless their source of power from foreign governments and businesses is cut and they are held to account by law. Local actors and communities must be cautious of the racial and religious incitement trap that the junta has been utilizing for decades to divide and rule them as its tactic of war to hold on to power. At the same time, the international community must take concrete actions to pursue justice and accountability for all the victims and survivors of the Myanmar military’s atrocities and take additional measures to end further atrocities through all feasible avenues, including imposing a coordinated global arms embargo and sanctions on institutions, enterprises, and individuals who are involved directly or indirectly, in the provision of services such as insurance, accreditation and verification services to vessels and infrastructure used to supply aviation fuel to the Myanmar military junta.
 One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.
By Action for Shan State Rivers
By Burma Campaign UK
By Justice For Myanmar
By Kachin National Forum
By Karen Rivers Watch
By Myanmar Accountability Project
By National Unity Government of Myanmar
By National Unity Government (Ministry of Human Rights)
By National Unity Government of Myanmar, Karenni State Consultative Council, Pa-O National Federal Council
By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တောင်ပိုင်း၊ ပအိုဝ်းဒေသ လုံးပျဥ်ကျေးရွာအုပ်စု၊ နမ်းနိန်းကျေးရွာရှိ ရဟန်းသံဃာတော်များနှင့် အရပ်သားပြည်သူများအား အကြမ်းဖက်စစ်တပ်မှ အစုလိုက်အပြုံလိုက် ရက်စက်ကြမ်းကြုတ်စွာ သတ်ဖြတ်ခြင်းအပေါ် ပအိုဝ်းအရပ်ဘက် လူမှု့အဖွဲ့အစည်းများ၏ သဘောထားထုတ်ပြန်ချက်
By Pa-O Civil Society Organisations
By Pa-O National Federal Council
By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar
By The European Union
By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees
By United Nations Myanmar
By ALTSEAN-Burma, Asia Democracy Network, Asian Forum for Human Rights and Development, Burma Human Rights Network, Initiatives for International Dialogue, International Federation for Human Rights, Progressive Voice, US Campaign for Burma, Women’s Peace Network
Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”