Myanmar troops jailed for civilian deaths in rare move

Advocacy group says verdict 1st in which soldiers held accountable for crimes against civilians, especially in ethnic areas

Myanmar troops jailed for civilian deaths in rare move

World Bulletin / News Desk

A court-martial in Myanmar has sentenced seven soldiers to five years in jail for murdering civilians in northeastern Shan State during fighting with ethnic rebels, an army-run newspaper reported Friday.

Four officers and three lower-ranking soldiers from the Northeast Command based in Lashio Township of restive Shan have admitted to murdering the five villagers during clashes June 25, according to the military-owned Myawaddy.

The military of Myanmar, once ruled by a total authoritarian dictatorship following a coup in 1962, has often been accused by human rights groups of abuses during decades of conflict with rebels in remote border areas.

Friday’s report said the court-martial at a military base in Lasion town issued its verdict after hearing the testimony of the seven soldiers, who were accused of killing the civilians in the remote village of Mong Yaw, a police officer from a nearby police station and 18 villagers.

Residents and witnesses had said that soldiers rounded up dozens of men from Mong Yaw in the area where fighting between government troops and the Ta'ang National Liberation Army broke out that time, and five bodies were found in a shallow grave a few days later.

Last month, the villagers of Mong Yaw were invited by the military to witness the court-martial where the judge asked the seven soldiers, who admitted they had committed the killing, for a confession.

A local human rights advocacy group said Friday that although a quasi-civilian government took power in 2011 and the country elected its first civilian leaders last year, such killings and torture are still present in Myanmar -- especially in ethnic areas.

“This [sentencing] is a very rare move. This would be the first case of soldiers being brought to accountability for the crimes committed against civilians,” Bo Kyi, the joint-secretary of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), told Anadolu Agency.

He added that such violations against civilians are committed by government troops as well as some rebel groups.

“That’s why we are urging the government to sign the Convention Against Torture,” Bo Kyi underlined.

Myanmar has yet to sign the United Nations treaty to help eradicate the practice in the country, home to “the world's longest-running civil war” involving more than a dozen ethnic rebel groups.

Military and police, as well as non-state armed groups, in Myanmar have long been accused by rights groups of practicing torture against civilians for confessions.

AAPP said in a statement Thursday that ratification of the treaty would show the international community that the new government led by State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi is dedicated to human rights, would reduce ongoing torture of civilians and encourage trust between ethnic factions.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 16 Eylül 2016, 09:22