Burma’s police have begun investigating the alleged execution of rebel fighters that occurred at the All-Burmese Students’ Democratic Front’s northern command centre in Kachin state in 1991.
According to witnesses’ accounts, more than 30 rebel fighters were gruesomely tortured and murdered by their own comrades after being accused of spying for the Burmese military at the group’s northern base.
A book detailing the events and torture, which allegedly included electrocution, crucifixion and beatings, was published in May in Burma and helped spark renewed interest in the mass executions.
Former ABSDF member Kyaw Naing Oo in Pegu division’s Tharawaddy township, who was among the more than 100 individuals detained and interrogated during the ABSDF purges in Kachin state’s Pajau town, said he was questioned by police from Kachin state’s Waingmaw township.
The township’s police commander Kyaw Win is leading the investigation after the daughter of U Sein, who was allegedly executed at the group’s base, filed a complaint in Rangoon’s Okkalapa township.
According to the commander, the police were assigned the case by Deputy Home Affairs Minister Lt-Gen Ko Ko.
Kyaw Naing Oo, who was kept in detention along with U Sein and was later cleared of spying charges, said the police were collecting information to determine whether the case should be filed as a murder or manslaughter charge.
“They asked if there was torturing and we told them the [victims] just died, but not necessarily [executed] and that there were no signs of torture but most died due to harsh weather and malnutrition,” said Kyaw Naing Oo.
“That should allow [the police] to weigh the two different sides of the story to draw a conclusion.”
Authorities have also met with former ABSDF member Than Chaung, who is currently on death row in Tharawaddy prison in Pegu division.
Than Chaung was a high-ranking official in the armed group’s northern command when dozens of their comrades were tortured and executed.
The former rebel leader was arrested for unrelated charges following the Kachin Independence Army’s armistice with the government in 1994.
The ABSDF was formed by university students who took up arms against the Burmese government after the 1988 uprising and following crackdown.
At its peak in the 1990s, the student army had about 10,000 members, and waged a guerrilla campaign against government forces largely from the mountains of Karen state and the Kachin highlands.