IMAGE: Former monk and leader of Yinmarbin PDF, Bo Thanmani
CORRECTION: Please note that in paragraph 8, the sentence “UDLA… said that Tiger Battalion was responsible for planting landmines that local people believed had caused the death of civilians” was incorrect, and has been changed to reflect the actual quote in Burmese: “UDLA’s general secretary, Ko Thurain, said that Tiger Battalion had been accused by Yinmarbin PDF of being responsible for planting landmines.” DVB unreservedly apologises for the translation error.
Bo Thanmani, leader of the Yinmarbin township PDF in Sagaing, has admitted to DVB that his militia killed four civilians and six rival PDF members in attacks last year.
Calls for the group to be investigated were elevated last week after the Union Defense and Liberation Alliance (UDLA), a body composed of 90 resistance groups, released a statement on March 14 claiming that Yinmarbin PDF had killed a total of 21 civilians and PDF members.
Bo Thanmani — a former Buddhist monk who is also known as Ashin Thawbaga and “the Thabyayaye monk” — said that he should be absolved from blame as he had not personally ordered the acts, instead attributing the killings to “lower-ranking officers with anger issues”.
The statement released by the UDLA accused Yinmarbin PDF of having used weapons to intimidate and torture local people on the border of Yinmarbin district, whilst making a number of arrests and looting homes.
Bo Thanmani told DVB that he refuted the UDLA’s claims. In interview, he attempted to cast doubt on the credibility of the 63 groups in question, implying that their identities had not been revealed in what he referred to as the “anonymous letter”.
“Those killings occurred at the end of November 2021, and later. We have made strict new rules not to kill dalan (military informants) and prisoners of war. And we will follow the decision of the law for the crimes we previously committed,” he said.
Among the alleged victims of Yinmarbin PDF are firefighters, all accused of being dalan, and a PDF squadron commander, Htike Maung from Hero Tiger Battalion, who local sources say was killed whilst helping a civilian escape an attack. Htike Maung is alleged to have been murdered when his resistance group went to meet with the Yinmarbin PDF, an act that our source says was backed by the approval of a battalion commander.
UDLA’s general secretary, Ko Thurain, said that Tiger Battalion had been accused by Yinmarbin PDF of being responsible for planting landmines that local people allege caused the death of civilians. Despite this, he told DVB that he believed it inappropriate to slander Yinmarbin PDF’s victims as murderers.
“We can’t talk about it in depth as the case is still being investigated by the NUG Ministry of Defense’s Central Commission for Military Crimes,” he said.
The commission has vowed to take appropriate legal action against all groups that are found to have harmed civilians, be they resistance groups or factions of the Burmese military.
Chaw Su Htay, the wife of murdered resistance fighter Htike Maung, told DVB that she will continue to demand justice for her husband.
“Every revolutionary group that uses arms needs to follow orders, and should not act like the junta’s troops — some people can change once they’re armed,” said CDM officer Commander Lin Htet Aung.
Although Yinmarbin PDF claims to operate under the umbrella of the NUG’s Ministry of Defense, not all members of the group have been provided with identification numbers, meaning that the NUG has encountered difficulties in punishing them under a military tribunal. As such, the ministry is working to take action under civil law, said U Naing Htoo, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Defense.
According to the UDLA, Yinmarbin PDF is in possession of more than 200 weapons and is causing mass destruction across the region, unrelated to the task of combating the Burmese military. The group urged members of Yinmarbin PDF suspected of crimes to surrender themselves to other PDF groups operating in the region.