Myanmar army soldiers in Mandalay’s Singu Township shot and killed two resistance fighters in a battle over the weekend and four who they took prisoner, the leader of a local defence force said.
The leader of the Oo Daung Min (Peacock King) guerrilla group told Myanmar Now that they and another allied anti-junta force had sent six members to carry out a targeted assassination of an alleged military informant near Pyinpin village on June 18.
The men reportedly encountered Myanmar Army troops at a checkpoint along the Mogok-Mandalay highway, leading to a fatal shootout.
“They ran straight into the junta force near the toll gate and they tried to fight back, but our men only had two pistols, so all of them were killed,” the leader said, citing accounts provided by villagers who live near the scene of the clash.
They said that two of the men died in the short battle: Wah Gyi and Ko Tae, who belonged to Oo Daung Min.
The surviving four—members of the allied guerrilla group—were reportedly captured and forced to run ahead of the soldiers with their hands behind their backs, at which time they were shot in the back and killed.
Unable to retrieve their bodies due to the continued military presence at the site, the resistance forces held a symbolic funeral on Sunday in which they burned clothing previously worn by the victims.
Oo Daung Min has been collaborating with other local defence forces in launching ambushes against the military in Shwebo District in neighbouring Sagaing Region, as well as in Mandalay’s Singu and Thabeikkyin townships.
One such alliance attacked the Shwe Pyi village police outpost and the military checkpoint in Ngwe Taung on the Mogok-Mandalay highway on May 20. Three junta personnel, including the police chief of the village outpost, were reportedly killed.
Guerrilla forces in Mandalay have been repeatedly striking junta reinforcement columns and convoys transporting weapons and supplies between central and upper Myanmar.
The military has responded by launching so-called “clearance” operations in the townships of Singu, Thabeikkyin and Madaya in an attempt to crush the armed resistance movement in the region.
13 Rohingya, believed to be human trafficking victims, found dead near Yangon
The incident comes a week after 68 Rohingya men and women were arrested in the same area while being transported in a truck
Most of Myanmar’s more than one million Rohingya have fled the country in recent years due to ethnic cleansing campaigns by the military. They have been subject to restrictions on their freedom of movement and other basic rights for decades.
These restrictions have made them vulnerable to human traffickers, who promise them better living conditions and work opportunities in Malaysia and other countries in the region.
Many are arrested in transit as they make the dangerous journey from Rakhine State to the Thai-Myanmar border or coastal areas in the country’s south. They are then charged with immigration offences that carry sentences of at least two years in prison.
Nay San Lwin, co-founder of the activist group Free Rohingya Coalition, said in a statement to Myanmar Now on Wednesday that the individuals described by the regime as traffickers were only involved in transporting the victims, and were not the ones leading the whole trafficking process.
He pointed out that the “lengthy” process of transporting Rohingya with no freedom of movement to Yangon would not be possible without the “unofficial permission” of local authorities.
“The trafficking gang won’t be able to take the victims out of Rakhine State without the involvement of local authorities,” he told Myanmar Now.
He added that while many Rohingya people might agree to be trafficked to escape the situation they face, they are still victims of exploitation and should not be charged or imprisoned if caught.
“These people are trafficked. They don’t travel on their own. They shouldn’t be charged under any act. They are the victims,” he said, adding that they should also be allowed legal assistance for their defence.
He said he was also sceptical about the actual cause of death for the 13 who were found dumped near Yangon. Citing sources who saw their dead bodies at Yangon General Hospital and photos of the bodies, Nay San Lwin said there were signs of torture and suggested that the military was trying “to cover up its crimes.”
“The acts of the junta are proofs that the genocide hasn’t stopped yet; it is ongoing.”