Sol­dier dis­charged af­ter Tat­madaw court rules guilty in death of civil­ian

The Myanmar Times - - News - LUN MIN MANG lun­min­mang@mm­

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.

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