A family of five, including a 3-year-old boy and an 80-year-old man, were gunned down in their Yangon home by six people in civilian clothes – believed to be pro-junta militia members – as frightened neighbors looked on.
The family is related to Win Soe, a secondary school teacher who is also an activist with the anti-junta Civil Disobedience Movement, often called the CDM. The Feb. 22 killings shows that activists – and their families – are also being targeted in urban areas, not just the countryside.
A person close to the family, who refused to be named for security reasons, told Radio Free Asia that six people in civilian clothes came to the house on two motorcycles and asked whether household members were related to Win Soe, who has been in hiding since the 2021 military coup d’etat.
“There was no one in the street, as the night was dark and because of the unsafe security situation,” the person said. “I thought they were there to buy some dried fish, as usual. Then they asked them to crouch down and not to look up and asked if they were the family of Win Soe.
“I think they answered that they were. That’s when they shot three times at each of them – two times only in the head,” the person said. “They even shot at the little kid.”
Locals believe the killings in the Yeik Thar ward of Hlegu township was the work of the pro-junta groups, but exactly which group was responsible was unknown. RFA tried to contact the police station in Hlegu township, but the call went unanswered.
Pro-junta supporters have formed militia groups with the help of the military in some townships. They often target and attack supporters of the opposition party and political activists.
More than 250,000 education workers have boycotted their government jobs to protest military rule and have joined the CDM, the shadow National Unity Government said last year.
Of those, junta authorities had killed at least 33 and arrested 218 others as of the end of 2022, according to statistics compiled by the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
A lawyer in Yangon, who refused to be named for security reasons, said the killing of a defenseless child and an elderly man shows the failure of the rule of law in the country.
“You can see that this was specifically targeted,” the lawyer said. “What this shows is that the rule of law in the country has almost completely broken down and the people are not free, not safe, and their freedom and safety are not protected by any organization.”
These kinds of mass killings, which have been happening sporadically since the coup, are leading the country toward failed state status, said Kyaw Win, director of the Burma Human Rights Network.
“The military junta wanted to prove that it can rule the country but it cannot even protect the people from such crimes and the junta itself is also the one who commits these crimes,” he said.
The family members were named as: San Nwet, a 50-year-old woman, Ko Maung and Win Nwe, each 30 years old, and Aung Maung, the 80-year-old man. The 3-year-old boy was not named. They were buried in Hpaung Gyi cemetery on Feb. 25, local sources said.
RFA contacted some of the surviving family members about the incident, but they were still traumatized and wouldn’t talk to a reporter.
Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Matt Reed and Malcolm Foster.