Soldier discharged after Tatmadaw court rules guilty in death of civilian
A TATMADAW investigation into the death of a villager in Kachin State has found a soldier from within its ranks guilty, with a military tribunal ruling that he be stripped of his rank and discharged from the military, the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission said in a statement last week.
The commission’s statement said it had received a complaint and request from Daw Mwai Hpu Htu, a Kamaing resident in Kachin State, seeking a probe into the death of Tu Jar. According to the complainant, her son-in-law Tu Jar and three other villagers were detained in June 2015 by the No 250 Infantry Regiment, and while the other three were released about one week later, Tu Jar was not.
After the request was passed on to the Ministry of Defence, the Tatmadaw investigated the case, determining that Tu Jar was a corporal in the Kachin Independence Army’s Battalion No 6, and had been buried by Major Ye Kyaw Thu. According to the statement, the court did not go so far as to directly blame the victim’s death on Maj Ye Kyaw Thu.
For deception and “secretly hiding the dead body” of Tu Jar, Ye Kyaw Thu was found guilty by the court martial and dismissed from the military.
Colonel Naw Bu, a communications officer for the KIA, told The Myanmar Times that he could not confirm whether Tu Jar was a soldier in the KIA. He also declined to comment on the ruling.
A notable gap exists between the commission statement’s release date and the purported timeline of events surrounding Tu Jar’s death. The statement said he was detained and died in June 2015, and the court-martial trial began in January 2016, whereas the statement from the rights commission was released on August 5, some seven months later. The statement said the commission had been informed of the case’s outcome by the Ministry of Defence on March 11, five months ago.
The rights commission’s vice chair U Sit Myaing said he was not aware of why the statement was released several months after a verdict was communicated to the rights body.
Daw Mwai Hpu Htu could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The commission said in its statement that it had already informed Daw Mwai Hpu Htu about the investigation and outcome of the military tribunal. Asked if the complainant was satisfied with the ruling in the case, U Sit Myaing said he had not been in contact with her.
U Sit Myaing conceded that the commission did have limitations in cases related to the military. Asked if he thought the military ruling was fair or not, he said he did not have enough information about the case to pass judgement.
“As we do not know the depth and details of the case – because the incident happened in an area where military tensions are high – it is difficult to comment on whether or not the court martial’s ruling was fair,” he said.
He added that the commission does not have the authority to monitor military-led investigations and court proceedings, a privilege only afforded to the rights body in civilian trials.
The case resemblance that of the 2014 death of Ko Par Gyi, a journalist detained by the Tatmadaw and killed while in military custody. The Tatmadaw said the journalist was a member of the Klohtoobaw Karen Organisation, a political wing of the Democratic Karen Benevolent Army. That assertion was denied by his wife, Daw Thandar.
Two soldiers admitted to killing Ko Par Gyi, but a military tribunal ruled in favour of their testimony, which claimed he was shot in self-defence. The two soldiers were acquitted in the case.
More recently, the Tatmadaw announced that it would be conducting a rare investigation into the abduction and deaths of seven villagers in Mong Yaw village, Lashio township, amid tensions in the area between the Tatmadaw and an ethnic armed group.
A military official said on July 20 that military personnel had wrongfully killed five villagers whom the Tatmadaw had detained. The official vowed that justice would be served in the case.