The bodies of six people, including women and minors, have been discovered mutilated and dumped in a septic well in Myanmarâ€™s Kayah state, residents and relief workers said Friday, bringing to eight the number of victims found killed in the stateâ€™s war-torn capital region over the past three days.
The six people were found in a sewage pit in Loikawâ€™s Yay-yo village on Jan. 26 and included three 17-year-old boys identified as Eugene, Fei Dae Le and David Kyaw Soe, as well as a 16-year-old boy named John Paul, sources told RFAâ€™s Myanmar Service.Â The other two victims were confirmed to be residents of Loikaw townshipâ€™s Naung Yar Ward but have yet to be identified.Â
On Friday, the bodies of a 63-year-old woman named Daw Muta and her 23-year-old son, Saw Dar Htoo, were discovered in Loikawâ€™s Htudu-Ngantha village, residents and aid workers told RFA. The cause of their deaths has yet to be determined.
A villager who personally buried the bodiesÂ in Yay-yo told RFA that they exhibited signs of torture, as well as bullet and stab wounds.
â€œTheirÂ facesÂ wereÂ swollen.Â We are not sure if theyÂ wereÂ shot or stabbed in theÂ abdomen, but most of them hadÂ injuries to the abdomen,â€ the villager said, speaking on condition of anonymity citing fear of reprisal.Â â€œOne was foundÂ withÂ a bullet wound in theÂ back.â€
A woman who claimed to be Eugeneâ€™s aunt told RFA that her nephew had recently returned home from a refugee camp with friends when he was taken away on Jan. 25 by soldiers in Yay-yo village.
â€œThe dogs [soldiers]Â came to the house at about 7 p.m. â€¦ The kids were snuggling in bed at the time as it was quite cold,â€ she said.
â€œWhenÂ theÂ dogsÂ showed up in front of theÂ house,Â [Eugene]Â called his cousin,Â but the line suddenly went out.Â The soldiers even had a meal in the house and yet they did that to my nephew. A woman from a neighboring house said sheÂ saw threeÂ people with their hands tiedÂ up being led away.â€
Eugeneâ€™s father recently died of disease, she said, and the boy had been the familyâ€™s sole bread winner.
In the year since the military seized power from Myanmarâ€™s democratically elected National League for Democracy in a Feb. 1 coup, authorities have arrested nearly 8,800 civilians and killed almost 1,500, mostly during nonviolent anti-junta protests, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The military has also launched major offensives against armed ethnic groups and prodemocracy militias in the countryâ€™s remote border regions, and reports suggest residents of areas that include Loikaw township have been subjected to rights violations by troops that include torture, sexual assault and murder.
Just two weeks ago, the military justified deploying an airstrike that killed six civilians, including two children, in Kayahâ€™s Demawso township and sent thousands fleeing for safety by saying it had received reports that anti-junta Peopleâ€™s Defense Force (PDF) militiamen had gathered there to attack government positions in Loikaw.
When asked by RFA on Friday about reports that the military was responsible for the deaths in Loikaw in recent days, junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun dismissed them as rumors.
â€œAllegations ofÂ suchÂ incidents are heard all the time and are not uncommon,â€ he said.
â€œItâ€™s trueÂ there were armed clashes between the two sides in some places.Â The problem is thatÂ some of these so-calledÂ PDFÂ terrorists wore civilian clothes and took cover as civilians. â€¦ When they defeat us, they claim responsibility, but if they fail,Â they blame the army for killingÂ civilians.â€
Militia members told RFA that they have had frequent clashes with the army in and around Loikaw since Jan. 8 and that the junta soldiers have been raiding houses in some of the townâ€™s wards and nearby villages.
â€œThere were no major clashes in the area,â€ said one, who declined to be named.
â€œThere was some fighting near theÂ village of Hmone Pyargan theÂ day before,Â notÂ far away from Nanattaw and Yay-yo villages,Â whereÂ theÂ bodiesÂ wereÂ found. The victims must have been killed during that operation.â€
According to the Karenni Human Rights Group, 12 civilians were killed in Kayah state and another 20 left dead by heavy shelling since the start of January.
The Karenni Social Network said a total of 198 civilians have been killed in Kayah state, most of them in Phruso and Demawso townships, since the coup last February.
Reported by RFAâ€™s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.