Army, resistance trade accusations over killings in Myanmar


MyanmarThe military government has denied a new report Mass murder It blamed pro-democracy opposition groups for the deaths of more than 20 civilians, including three Buddhist monks and a woman, by its forces.

Members of armed opposition groups opposed to the military government said the bodies of 22 people were found late Saturday at the compound of a Buddhist monastery in the village of Nam Nin, in the southern part of Shan State in eastern Myanmar. He blamed the army for the deaths. No independent witness came forward. The military government’s strict restrictions on travel and information make it almost impossible to verify details of such incidents.

The village is about 80 km (50 mi) east of the capital, Naypyitaw. The area is part of the self-governing zone of the Pa-O ethnic minority. It is controlled by the Pa-O National Organization, or PNO, which is allied with the military government. Others support the Pa-O opposition.

The reports of the killings come a week after they were accused of raiding, raping and beheading at least 17 people in several villages in western Myanmar earlier this month.

Critics of the military say there is strong evidence that the military has repeatedly committed war crimes since seizing power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021. war

Earlier this month, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Turk accused the ruling generals of implementing “a scorched earth policy in an attempt to stamp out the opposition”.

Anti-government protest groups and villagers who had previously fled Nam Nin but remained in contact with the monastery by phone said about 30 people were taking shelter in its main building after fighting escalated in the area last month. What exactly happened on Saturday morning is unclear, but was documented in subsequent photographs and video.

Pictures released on social media by the anti-government Karenni Nationalities Defense Force showed monks and other men with apparent bullet wounds near and against the wall of the monastery’s main building. They also show pools of blood and bullet holes on the wall.

The Pa-O region is next to Kayah state, where the Karenni, an ethnic minority fighting against the government, is dominant. A local leader of the Karenni guerrillas who took the photographs said snipers from his group in the surrounding area used their rifle scopes to see about 100 soldiers firing their guns and houses as they entered the village on Saturday morning. .

The snipers were unable to see further, he said, as they had to retreat when government planes came under fire. A Karenni guerrilla, who asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals by the military, admitted his troops did not witness the massacre, but saw the bodies when they entered the village late Saturday night and took photographs. He vehemently denied that opposition forces were responsible for the massacre, as alleged by the army and his supporters.

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Major General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for Myanmar’s ruling military council, said the violence was initiated by resistance forces, who attacked army personnel and members of an affiliated militia force, and then entered the village where The battle continued.

He described the opposition forces, the Karenni National Progressive Party – an ethnic minority militia fighting the army – and their allies in the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force and the People’s Defense Force, as “terrorist groups” that posed a threat to the country. area from the beginning of this month.

Karenni have been fighting for more autonomy for decades. The People’s Defense Forces were formed after the 2021 military takeover by the pro-democracy movement, and allied with groups such as Karenni.

“When the KNPF/KNPP/PDF terrorist groups fired violently, it was observed that some villagers were killed and injured,” the military spokesman said in an interview published in Tuesday’s edition of Myanmar’s state-run newspaper Global New Light. said in “We only attacked the KNP, KNDF and PDF groups,” Zhou Min Tun said. “The news of death of villagers is completely wrong. Some villagers were killed and injured due to firing.”

A 45-year-old Nam Nain resident who left the village in late February because of the fighting told The Associated Press that he was in daily phone contact with the head monk of the monastery, who refused his pleas to leave.

“The monk called me at 8am on Saturday. He said they are entering the village. I can hear gunshots and gunfire,” the villager said on condition of anonymity. Suddenly switched off the phone. Because he was afraid of being punished by the authorities.

“He could not tell which groups entered. So it is not clear who killed the people,” the villager said on Monday. He added that among the dead were Bhikshu, who was his nephew, and his two brothers-in-law.

A village elder who left Nam Nin in late February told the AP that all those killed in the monastery compound were civilians who had stayed to help care for the monks.

“More than 20 people killed in the monastery were just our villagers. They are not PDF members, soldiers and not members of PNO,” said the villager, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was attacked by the two officials. There was fear of being punished. and local pro-democracy forces.

He said he was also told by the head monk over the phone about troops entering the village on Saturday morning, but did not know whether they were from the army or the guerrillas.

Manny Maung, a researcher at Human Rights Watch, speculated that the village’s relative proximity to the country’s capital may have prompted the military to act to curb guerrilla activity in the area.

“It is impossible for independent verifiers or independent researchers to go in. But it has incredible traces of military atrocities,” he said. ¿I think if we don’t get a chance to go in now, we’ll never know who the real criminals were.”

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