The Kachin Independence Army (KIA) has voiced anger after one of its troops was returned in a hostage exchange deal dead and displaying signs of severe torture.
The KIA, which is currently engaged in heavy fighting with Burmese troops in the country’s north, says the Burmese army may have violated international law on prisoners of war by executing Lance Corporal Cham Yein. The body was returned on 9 June after the KIA handed over two government soldiers accused of spying.
“Our post-mortem check showed his skull was cracked, presumably with severe force, and there were stab wounds all over his body,” said La Nan, a central committee member of the KIA’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO). “His face was swollen beyond the point of recognition and one of his arms was completely smashed. So we were returned the completely messed up body of our man.”
When the army Northern Regional Military Command (NRMC) contacted the KIA over the hostage, “they said they captured our soldier alive and would return him alive,” La Nan said.
“Then they said he died due to blood loss from a gunshot wound. However, the condition of his body that we saw told us he wasn’t killed in a fight but instead tortured and murdered like an animal.”
Cham Yein, thought to be 21 or 22-years-old, was captured last week by Burmese troops as they approached the KIA’s frontline base near Sang Gang village, Momauk township. The following day, on 8 June, a Burmese captain and lieutenant were taken by the KIA.
It was during negotiations over an exchange of the personnel that the NRMC told the KIA that Cham Yein died from blood loss. The KIA then handed over the two soldiers and awaited his body.
“[On 10 June] the Burmese army started acting like they didn’t want to return the body – they didn’t want us to see it. In the end, they returned the body around 3pm in the afternoon.”
La Nan said that similar incidents had occurred in the past: in 2001 the bodies of four KIA troops captured by the Burmese army were found burned, and following a raid on a KIA office in 2004, the army “beat our office workers to death before hacking up and disposing of their bodies”.
In an interview with DVB last week, the KIO’s spokesperson James Lundau said the Burmese government was unable to control its frontline troops, and rebutted suggestions that the assault on the Momauk base was ordered by Naypyidaw.