Naw Mu Naw, a 40 years old and mother of three, from Po Lo Hta village in Papun (Mutraw) district in the Northern Karen State, was shot and killed at her home by two Burma army soldiers who also stole her jewellery. The two soldiers, identified as private Than Soe Lwin and Hein Min Htet from Ku Thu Hta (Hla Goon Pyo), a Burma Army camp near Po Lo Hta village. The soldiers were from Light Infantry Battalion #409 under the Military Operation Command #8 based in the area.
On July 18, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) 5th Brigade wrote a letter to the Karen State Joint Ceasefire Monitoring Committee (JMC-S) to investigate the case as the Burma Army had broke the Nationwide Ceasefire Agreement (NCA) and the Military Code of Conduct (COC).
The KNLA’s letter said the Burma Army’s action breached the NCA agreement Chapter (3), Paragraph (9.b) – “Avoid acts violating a person’s dignity, violence, extrajudicial detention, kidnapping, torture, inhumane treatment, imprisonment, killing or otherwise causing the disappearance of the individual” and Paragraph (9.d) stated to “Avoid forcibly taking money, property, food, labor or services from civilians.”
The murder of Naw Mu Naw has outraged Karen community groups and on July 21, the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN) issued a statement calling for an “end to military impunity.”
Naw Wah Ku Shee, the spokesperson for KPSN told Karen News impunity in the Burma Army is systematic and the army is protected by the 2008 constitution.
“The Burma Army committing crimes with impunity in Burma has been ongoing for decades. We have seen situations in the past where action was not taken against the perpetrators. The army continues committing crimes with impunity.”
The KPSN statement said civilians have no security as soldiers are protected from prosecution by the Constitution.
“Even where there are high profile cases which pressure the military to take action, trials are held in secrecy, any punishment is often secret, and it is not known if soldiers convicted of these type of crimes even serve their sentences. Across Burma, ethnic civilians continue to be killed with impunity by the Burma Army. Living in a ceasefire area is no guarantee of safety.”
The Tatmadaw (military) Information Team on its website acknowledged the killing and said two soldiers had been arrested. The website also said that the two soldiers had confessed to the crime and harsh action would be taken against them. The website article said the soldiers are now in military custody at the Bilin area in Mon State and further actions would be taken with transparency.
The Tatmadaw Information Team played down the murder and described the shooting as an ‘unintentional discharge’ as the drunk soldier, private Than Soe Lwin was trying to grab jewellery from Naw Mu Naw.
The KPSN spokesperson Naw Wah Ku Shee disputed the ‘unintentional discharge’ claim used by the Burma Army as a brazen attempt to soften punishment of its soldiers.
“It’s clear the soldier shot to kill – it was not an ‘unintentional discharge’. Three shots – one in the eye, one in the mouth and one in the chest – you can’t call it an ‘accident’ or ‘unintentional discharge’.”
The Karen Women Organization, the Karen Human Right Group and the KNU Concern Group also condemned the murder calling for a fair trial and an independent international investigation.
Naw Zipporah Sein, spokesperson for the KNU Concern Group said the government should open way for independent investigation in order to bring justice for Mu Naw.
“We know at the national level the government will not be able give justice to this case. We have seen many incidents like this in the past. Although investigation teams were formed [by government or military], we’ve never seen any results that bring justice.”
Zipporah Sein said the government needs to show a genuine desire for justice. “The government needs to open a channel for an independent international investigation into all crimes against civilians committed by its army.”
Naw Yuzana Wa, vice chairperson of the Plone-Swor Democratic Party (PSDP), a Karen political party based in Karen State told Karen News that this is another case that show the government’s failure to protect its civilians.
“If the ruling government can’t protect the public, all ethnic parties should demand for R2P (Responsibility to Protect) to be enacted.”
Mu Naw is survived by her husband, Saw Pu Aye and three children.
The KPSN statement said Saw Pu Aye explained the Burma Army post in the area makes the lives of local people difficult. He said people live in fear of the soldiers and can’t move around freely to work and farm. Local people want the Burma Army to withdraw from their areas and their military bases removed.