Seven young men from Myanmar’s war-torn Sagaing region were found dead on Tuesday after being taken away from a military checkpoint the day before by junta soldiers, local residents and family members said.
The group, who had been on their way to work in a gold mine in nearby Kachin state when they were arrested, included four teenagers aged 14 and 15, sources said.
A resident of the victims’ Wun Gyi village in Sagaing’s Khin-U township told RFA on Wednesday that the men’s bodies had been found near a military training camp bearing gunshot wounds and signs of torture.
“We found the seven bodies at Ywar Thar village just north of the camp,” RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity for security reasons. “They must have been killed during the night,” he added.
“The bodies had gunshot wounds and were covered in bruises. We feel very sad because some of them were underage kids,” he said.
Northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing has been a major theater of fighting between local militias and the junta, which has used scorched-earth tactics in wide swathes of the region in retaliation for clashes.
Last week junta chief Snr. Gen. Min Aung Hlaing said Sagaing has seen the most clashes of any region in the country since the military seized control of Myanmar in a Feb. 1, 2021 coup, with 4,026 reported.
The young men killed by junta soldiers were identified as Kyaw Thu Hein (19), Nai Nai (22), Phyo Ngwe Soe (19), Min Ko (20), Min Nyi (14), Thura Tun (210, and Zaw Hein (15).
Their bodies were brought back to Wun Gyi and buried on Tuesday, RFA’s source said.
A family member of one of those killed that some of the group had been found with tattoos on their arms indicating support for groups opposing junta rule.
“Their driver said the group was arrested just after leaving Shwebo, and when the soldiers checked them for COVID vaccination marks they found tattoos of the Spring Revolution and guns on their arms,” the family member said.
“There was one family that lost two sons. They were actually ordinary people,” he said.
One Wun Gyi resident who asked not to be named for security reasons said the village had been traumatized on learning that the seven young men were killed after leaving their homes to find work.
“The bodies had injuries on their necks and bellies and looked terrible. It’s unspeakable that the soldiers are brutalizing ordinary citizens like this,” he said.
Calls seeking comment from the junta’s Regional Social Affairs Minister Aye Hlaing rang unanswered on Wednesday.
Also speaking to RFA, a member of the Khin-U township People’s Defense Force, an armed group set up to combat junta forces, said the men who were killed may have been targeted because they came from Khin-U.
Work opportunities in the township are now scarce, he added.
“In the current economic crisis, it is not easy to plant paddy crops. Fuel prices are unaffordable, and other prices are on the rise. And when people go out to work in the fields, the soldiers who raided their villages just shoot at them,” he said.
Unable to farm, many now leave their homes to work in the mines, he said. “So killing young men like this shows the military is determined to oppress Khin-U.”
Translated by Khin Maung Nyane for RFA Burmese. Written in English by Richard Finney.