Myanmar military probing suspect civilian deaths

Myanmar military probing suspect civilian deaths

Yangon (AFP) - Myanmar's military said Tuesday it was probing whether troops killed three civilians in the country's violence-wracked northeast after their bodies were found buried near an army post riddled with bullets.

The corpses of the three men were discovered about three miles away from northeast of military command in Mai Khaung village in Kachin State, where thousands of people have been displaced by recent fighting.

Local activists and media reported the men had been tortured and stabbed before they were killed, citing local officials.

"Responsible authorities started investigating on May 29th whether soldiers from military command were involed in the case," the office of the commander-in-chief said in a statement.

Kachin activist Khon Ja said the men were from nearby internally displaced person (IDP) camps run by Christians.

"They were last seen arrested by (the) Tatmadaw," she said, using another name for Myanmar's army.

The military ran Myanmar for 50 brutal years, rife with rights abuses, including against the many ethnic minorities that have been battling the state since independence in 1948.

Since handing over power to a quasi-civilian government in 2011 the army has been working to spruce up its image as the country opens up to foreign visitors and investors.

Last year seven soldiers were sentenced to five years of hard labour for killing villagers during an interrogation, in a rare show of military accountability.

The probe announcement comes the day after the end of peace talks between the government, army and dozens of ethnic insurgent groups.

The talks, chaired by new civilian de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, ended with a peacemeal agreement on some aspects of a new federal state but no substantial moves toward a nationwide ceasefire.

Fighting in Myanmar's borderlands has reached its worst point in decades in recent months, sending tens of thousands fleeing their homes in Kachin and neighbouring Shan State.

The army's announcement of an investigation also comes days after a video showing men in military uniforms viciously beating and threatening to kill handcuffed detainees sparked outrage on social media.

The footage shows several men dressed in army uniform kicking and beating three handcuffed men, asking whether they belong to the Ta'ang National Liberation Army ethnic armed group.

An official from the TNLA told AFP the video was first recorded a year ago.

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