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Shan State’s deputy-chief of police has told DVB that an investigation has been launched into the murder of seven villagers in Lashio Township last week.
Locals and family members of the slain villagers have accused the Burmese army of committing the killings, claiming that five men had been detained by government troops before turning up in shallow graves, while the other two were shot while riding a motorcycle through an army checkpoint.
However, a report by military-owned Myawady News on 1 July claimed the bodies of the five exhumed men belonged to rebels of the Ta’ang Nationalities Liberation Army (TNLA).
According to the report, on 25 June a Burmese army column came under heavy and small arms fire by TNLA troops who had dug into positions on the surrounding hills about two miles west of the town of Mong Yaw. The government forces returned fire, prompting the Ta’ang rebels into a withdrawal.
The Myawady report went on to claim that government troops found two dead bodies belonging to the “enemy”, along with heroin stuffed into 10 soap boxes – with an estimated street value of 1.9 million kyat (US$160,000) – and around 2,000 amphetamine pills worth around 4 million kyat (US$3,400).
The Burmese military dismissed independent and social media reports claiming the deceased were local villagers who had been abducted by the Burmese army.
TNLA spokesperson Mong Aik Kyaw, speaking to DVB by telephone, insisted that no clash had taken place between Ta’ang forces and the Burmese army on 25 July.
“There was no TNLA activity in that area on that day,” he said. “This must be an attempt to create misunderstandings between the armed groups and civilians.”