Tat­madaw ad­mits civil­ian deaths

In a sur­pris­ing ad­mis­sion yes­ter­day, the Tat­madaw ac­knowl­edged its in­volve­ment in the mur­der of five Shan State res­i­dents and vowed to pun­ish the sol­diers con­duct­ing the in­ter­ro­ga­tions that re­sulted in the killings.

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page - – Trans­la­tion by Thiri Min Htun EI EI TOE LWIN eieitoel­win@mm­times.com

THE mil­i­tary has ad­mit­ted that its sol­diers killed five civil­ians in Shan State’s Lashio town­ship, in a nearly un­prece­dented ad­mis­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity from a pow­er­ful in­sti­tu­tion that crit­ics say has long acted with im­punity.

At a press con­fer­ence yes­ter­day in Yangon, Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mya Tun Oo said a mil­i­tary tri­bunal would try those re­spon­si­ble for killing the five men, who died dur­ing in­ter­ro­ga­tions.

“There are rules and reg­u­la­tions in in­ter­ro­gat­ing. They need to be fol­lowed,” said Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo, who works in the of­fice of Com­man­der-in-Chief Se­nior Gen­eral Min Aung Hlaing. “If some­one fails to fol­low them, it re­quires that ac­tion be taken.”

He promised that the Tat­madaw would fully dis­close the out­come of the case, in­clud­ing any pun­ish­ment meted out, and would of­fer the vic­tims’ fam­i­lies as­sis­tance.

The case in Mong Yaw vil­lage made head­lines last month, with lo­cals ac­cus­ing Tat­madaw troops of de­tain­ing seven civil­ians, who were never seen again. An in­ves­ti­ga­tion into the other two deaths is on­go­ing, ac­cord­ing to the Tat­madaw, which has long faced al­le­ga­tions of mis­con­duct – par­tic­u­larly against eth­nic mi­nor­ity pop­u­la­tions – from hu­man rights ad­vo­cates and eth­nic armed groups.

Two of the high­est pro­file cases in re­cent years were the Oc­to­ber 2014 killing, while in mil­i­tary cus­tody, of free­lance jour­nal­ist Ko Par Gyi, and the deaths of two Kachin school­teach­ers in north­ern Shan State in Jan­uary of last year that were widely al­leged to have been per­pe­trated by Tat­madaw sol­diers.

Shan State has been wracked by con­flict be­tween the Tat­madaw and several eth­nic armed groups in re­cent years, and civil­ians are fre­quently de­tained by the for­mer and ques­tioned for sus­pected ties to the lat­ter.

Anti-Ma Jai Yang In a less dra­matic dis­clo­sure yes­ter­day, speak­ing on be­half of Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing, Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo urged Myan­mar’s eth­nic armed groups not to go for­ward with a gath­er­ing among their own that they in­tend to hold in re­mote Ma Jai Yang, Kachin State.

With plans to hold a so-called 21stcen­tury Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence at the end of Au­gust, eth­nic armed groups are hop­ing to gather at the end of this month to dis­cuss and reach com­mon po­si­tions ahead of the much-an­tic­i­pated con­fer­ence, which will bring to­gether the civil­ian Na­tional League for Democ­racy gov­ern­ment, the Tat­madaw, eth­nic armed groups and po­lit­i­cal par­ties.

“The com­man­der-in-chief said it will be dif­fi­cult to reach sim­i­lar opin­ion among the dif­fer­ent groups, and it could cause prob­lems at the peace con­fer­ence ... Dis­cussing openly and hon­estly among each other is the bet­ter way,” Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo said at the press con­fer­ence.

At a meet­ing on June 30 be­tween Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing and eight non-stated armed group sig­na­to­ries to last year’s na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment, rep­re­sen­ta­tives from the sig­na­tory groups asked the com­man­derin-chief for the Tat­madaw to pro­vide se­cu­rity for the Ma Jai Yang sum­mit, cit­ing the re­gion’s war-torn re­cent his­tory and present-day in­sta­bil­ity. They also sought the mil­i­tary’s bless­ing to hold the meet­ing.

Eth­nic lead­ers have said the point of Ma Jai Yang is to re­in­force the foun­da­tion of peace-build­ing ef­forts, not to try to strengthen their side’s hand in the lead-up to the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence.

Yes­ter­day Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo said Snr Gen Min Aung Hlaing was not go­ing so far as to com­mand that the Ma Jai Yang plans be scrapped, and was only of­fer­ing a sug­ges­tion and en­cour­ag­ing eth­nic armed groups to con­sider the pos­si­ble con­se­quences if the meet­ing is held.

“The com­man­der-in-chief is just giv­ing a sug­ges­tion on whether the con­fer­ence should be held or not. If it is held, we don’t have any rea­son to ob­ject to it be­cause it is con­ducted ac­cord­ing to the pol­icy of the gov­ern­ment,” he said, adding that the road from the Kachin State cap­i­tal My­itky­ina to Ma Jai Yang is un­der Tat­madaw con­trol, and that eth­nic armed groups par­tic­i­pat­ing in the sum­mit later this month would not be pre­vented from us­ing it.

Ad­dress­ing the in­clu­siv­ity of the Pan­g­long Con­fer­ence, Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo re­it­er­ated a pre­vi­ous call for par­ties in ac­tive con­flict with the Tat­madaw to lay down their arms in or­der to get a seat at the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble.

“These three armed groups need to fully have a de­sire to re­lin­quish the ways of fight­ing the gov­ern­ment with arms and weapons. If [they do] so, it is not dif­fi­cult to at­tain peace,” Lt Gen Mya Tun Oo said, re­fer­ring to the Arakan Army, the Ta’ang Na­tional Lib­er­a­tion Army and the Myan­mar Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance Army.

All three groups were shut out of the na­tion­wide cease­fire agree­ment ne­go­ti­a­tions by the pre­vi­ous mil­i­tary-back gov­ern­ment.

State Coun­sel­lor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has stressed that her gov­ern­ment is seek­ing to make the Au­gust con­fer­ence as in­clu­sive as pos­si­ble, but ex­clu­sion of some groups looks in­creas­ingly likely with each week that passes with­out an an­swer on whom the Tat­madaw will agree to have par­tic­i­pate.

Eth­nic armed groups, and par­tic­u­larly NCA non-sig­na­to­ries, have urged the gov­ern­ment to push for the in­clu­sion of the three groups.

Photo: AFP

Lieu­tenant Gen­eral Mya Tun Oo speaks at a press con­fer­ence in Yangon on July 20.

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