A military court has handed down sentences of five years with hard labour to seven Burmese army servicemen found guilty of murdering local villagers in northern Shan State’s Lashio Township earlier this year.
The army tribunal, conducted by the Burmese Army’s Northeast Regional Military Command, imposed the punishment on Thursday after reaching a guilty verdict against the soldiers, in a rare acknowledgement of wrongdoing by members of Burma’s armed forces.
The tribunal stripped the convicted soldiers, including a division commander and three other officers, of their rank so that they can serve their sentences in civilian prisons, according to sources present at the hearing.
On 25 June, soldiers rounded up dozens of farmers working in fields near the village of Mong Yaw. Later that evening, all were released except five who were suspected of having links to ethnic rebels operating in the area. Four days later, the bodies of all five men were discovered by local villagers.
The bodies of two other locals who were reportedly killed after being shot for failing to stop at an army roadblock were also found around the same time. No investigation has been held to determine whether they were also victims of murder.
The families of the five deceased — Sai Ai Hsai, Sai Ai Maung, Sai Ai Lord, Naw Tint and Sai Hla — were at the hearing when the verdict was reached.
Some of the relatives of the victims told DVB that they could not be satisfied with just the prison sentences, because the murders had left them destitute.
The widow of one victim said the verdict would do little to help her family.
“If my husband were still alive, he would be looking after us. But now there is no one to do that, and we are not getting any compensation,” she said.
Although the villagers who attended the sentencing hearing confirmed the tribunal’s decision, the military had yet to make an official announcement as of Thursday evening.