Bodies of Bago shooting victims kept by army

The funerals for two men shot dead by Burmese troops after a dispute in Bago are being arranged by the army, with families blocked from seeing the bodies, relatives said.

The two, Aung Thu Hein, 22, and Soe Paing Zaw, 18, were killed in the early hours of 5 September after a quarrel over damage to a motorbike broke out. Eye-witness reports said that a fist-fight between an army captain and five men followed, before the captain telephoned to troops. A group arrived at the scene, after which the two were shot, each receiving four to six bullet wounds in their chest and head.

According to the families of the two, the army had promised it would return the bodies but later reneged after some 2000 people protested at the Bago mortuary where they were being kept.

Aung Thu Hein’s aunt was also blocked from entering the mortuary on Monday to retrieve his body.

“We were told there was no need for the families to carry [the bodies] to [the cemetery] as the army has arranged everything with the [local Myanmar] Red Cross,” she said. “They said we can just attend the funerals at ease as they will be doing everything, including carrying the bodies onto the hearses.”

Extra troops have now been deployed in Bago’s Zaiganai ward where the shooting took place and will remain there until after the funeral, while the family has been told to keep locals calm as fears of a riot grow.

The aunt said that Aung Thu Hein’s mother was offered one million kyat (US$1,000) compensation by the army, but she refused.

“We don’t want that one million kyat,” said the aunt. “We are just sad that they killed my innocent nephew just because they can carry guns. Those soldiers think they can do things like that when they receive their training. We are not taking the money.”

Rumours had circulated that the two were killed after attempting to wrestle the guns from the troops, but this has not been confirmed.

Already this year, two incidents involving police and troops in Bago division have made headlines. In May, a young boy who refused to be recruited by the army in Pyontazatown town was shot dead by troops, while three months later a group of civilians were detained overnight in a Bago police station where they were beaten and tortured by policemen.

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