Myanmar: Promised investigation into senior monk’s shooting must actually take place

June 25th, 2024  •  Author:   Amnesty International  •  3 minute read
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Responding to news that the Myanmar military has issued a rare apology and pledged to investigate the killing of a prominent monk, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for Research, Montse Ferrer, said:

“After killing thousands of people since the 2021 coup, the Myanmar military authorities have issued an unprecedented apology and promised to investigate the tragic shooting of a senior monk. But with the military authorities’ track record on human rights, apologies ring hollow and pledges leave little hope of justice.

“The pattern of this killing can be applied to so many violent attacks in Myanmar. First, the military authorities tried to deflect blame, pinning responsibility for the murder on resistance forces. But when a brave witness and survivor of the shooting shared testimony, military authorities were forced to backtrack.

“Myanmar’s military authorities must launch thorough, impartial, independent, transparent and effective investigations into the thousands of killings they have directed, overseen or tacitly encouraged since the coup took place. This is not an isolated incident but a common feature of life in Myanmar, where people pay the price for the reckless behavior of a military that has no respect for human rights.

“Authorities must bring those suspected of being responsible in this case to justice in fair trials and ensure that the victims are provided with access to justice and effective remedies. Authorities must respect, protect, promote and fulfil the human rights of everyone in the country.”

Background

On 19 June, a senior religious figure in Myanmar’s Buddhist community, Bhaddanta Muninda Bhivamsa, was shot and killed while travelling in a car in Mandalay Region’s Ngazun Township, according to military-controlled media. The 78-year-old was the head abbot of Win Neinmitayon Monastery in Bago Region. He was travelling with another monk who was injured along with the driver.

At first, the military blamed the People’s Defense Forces, armed groups that sprang up in response to the 1 February 2021 coup. But they quickly changed course after the survivor of the shooting, Bhaddanta Gunika Bhivamsa, posted a statement about the event on social media that contradicted the military’s version of events.

The surviving monk said that the shooting occurred around 10:30am as the group was traveling through a checkpoint, and that afterwards, members of the military stationed nearby told him they mistakenly targeted the vehicle, believing it to belong to resistance forces.

“I said to the soldiers, why are you so cruel to us? We are monks. The soldiers then replied because we didn’t know you were monks. They admitted it on the spot,” he said in his video post.

On 22 June, the military then issued a rare statement promising to investigate and expressing regret, saying there had been clashes in the area and when a car tried to pass by while they were conducting a search operation they “shot it to stop.”

A spokesperson pledged to take “necessary action” based on the findings of an investigation. A video has also circulated of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, who took power in the 2021 coup, apologizing for the incident through an intermediary at the monk’s monastery in Bago Region on 24 June.

Myanmar’s military has killed more than 5,300 people since the 2021 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a monitoring group.


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