Aid Worker Shot Dead by Myanmar Army in Kayin State

An aid group on Monday condemned the shooting death of one of its assistance team members by the Myanmar army in mountainous southeastern Myanmar’s Kayin state, where fresh hostilities between the military and an ethnic armed group have recently flared despite a cease-fire agreement between the two sides.

Soldiers shot community leader Saw O Moo, who was also a member of the Mutraw (Papun) Emergency Assistance Team (MEAT) and the Karen National Union (KNU), as he returned home on a motorbike to Ler Mu Plaw village in Lu Thaw township of the state’s Papun district on April 5.

A friend who was on the back of the motorbike driven by the father of seven managed to escape, according to a report by the online journal The Irrawaddy.

“The murder of an innocent humanitarian aid worker by the Burmese army seriously violates not only human rights but also the nationwide cease-fire agreement (NCA),” said a statement issued by MEAT, referring to a nationwide peace accord that eight of Myanmar’s ethnic armed groups signed with the government military in October 2015.

The KNU, Myanmar’s oldest ethnic militia whose conflict with the Myanmar army has spanned nearly seven decades, was among the original eight groups that signed the peace pact.

The new clashes were triggered by the government military’s deployment of security patrols near the Ler Mu Plaw village tract on March 5, an area that is off limits to the military under the terms of the cease-fire accord, Karen civil society groups said.

The KNU objects to the Myanmar army’s rebuilding of an old road in the Ler Mu Plaw village tract area that was abandoned a decade ago.

“The NCA said the cease-fire pact could not be breached by moving troops across agreed-upon cease-fire boundaries, military action, building roads for military purposes, or deploying more troops,” MEAT spokesman Padoh Mahn Mahn told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

“Now villagers have to flee because of the military’s moves and because a humanitarian worker was shot dead,” he said. “We are not only unsafe, but also our human rights have been violated. That’s the way we feel.”

Saw O Moo, 42, advocated for indigenous Karen rights, including land and forest governance and peace for the ethnic Mutraw people, said a statement issued by MEAT, which was set up on March 12 by KNU leaders and Karen community organizations to provide food and medicine to people displaced by the hostilities.

The latest round of fighting between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA), the KNU’s military wing, and the Myanmar military has forced about 2,300 residents from 16 villages to flee their homes.

MEAT also called on Myanmar President Win Myint and State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi to take immediate action to protect displaced villagers and ensure the safety of humanitarian workers in the state.

Phado Mann Mann said MEAT has notified the cease-fire Joint Monitoring Committee (JMC), which includes representatives from ethnic militias who signed the NCA and government officials who monitor cease-fire breaches, because the government army has deployed an additional 400 troops in the area.

Reported by Wai Mar Tun for RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khet Mar. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.