Myanmar soldiers accused of killing 2 Kachin civilians

BANGKOK — A community leader said Friday that the bodies of two civilians last seen in the custody of Myanmar soldiers have been found in a shallow grave in Kachin State, where fighting between government forces and an ethnic armed group is ongoing.

Community leader Naw Mai said the two ethnic Kachin men lived in a refugee camp in Mai Hkawng village and were taken away by soldiers on Jan. 31 while working on a nearby farm. The bodies of Hpaugan Yaw, 65, and Nhkum Naw San, 35, were found Thursday.

"We uncovered the bodies near the farm where they went missing as we suspected they might have been killed," Naw Mai said.

Rights groups and the victims' families are demanding an investigation. Kachin state police officer Myo Thura Naung said Friday that they had yet to be informed about the incident.

"I want an investigation and justice for my brother," said Nhkum Ji Pa, a relative of Nhkum Naw San.

Kachin state is where government forces have been fighting an ethnic armed group seeking greater autonomy for the Kachin people. The fighting has driven more than 100,000 people into refugee camps across the region.

Myanmar army's has long been accused of extrajudicial killing, torture, forced labor, rape and other abuses against ethnic minority groups.

Last year, three Kachin men from the same refugee camp were found dead after being held by the army.

The seizure of civilians in ethnic minority regions by Myanmar's army is not unusual. Rights groups say they are usually taken by troops who accuse them of having connections to armed rebel groups.

"The abduction and killing of civilians by the army has been going on for a long time and there are other civilians who were seized by the army and never returned back home," said Khon Ja of the Kachin Peace Network, a local organization that documents rights abuses.

Fortify Rights, a Southeast Asia-focused human rights group, said Friday that the two men were last seen in custody of soldiers, bound and, in the case of Nhkum Naw San, badly beaten.

The group said the military has since refused to allow search parties to have access to the area where the men were last seen and has also imposed a curfew in the area.

"Myanmar authorities must investigative the killings of these men, and hold perpetrators to account," said David Baulk, a Myanmar specialist with Fortify Rights.

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