Rangoon (Mizzima) – Pegu city residents are incensed by the fatal execution-style shootings of two unarmed youths by Burmese Army officers after a road-rage incident on Saturday night. The youths are to be cremated today by the army, which refuses to release the bodies to their families.
Joining local outrage, the Union Democratic Party (UDP) said in a statement yesterday that charges should be laid against the captains from Infantry Battalion 59 who reportedly shot dead Aung Thu Hein, 22 and Soe Paing Zaw, 18, after a violent clash in the city 50 miles (80 kilometres) north of the former capital of Burma.
The clash was triggered when the trishaw (three-wheeled bicycle taxis) the youths were travelling in and a bicycle ridden by the officers from the Pegu Division based battalion collided at around midnight in front of California Restaurant on Mya Street.
The officers had returned to the city to find the youths after the two groups had earlier come to blows and an officer had sustained head injuries, a resident said.
A witness told another exile media outlet: “After arguing with local youngsters, about 10 soldiers, including officers, came back to town with guns looking for the young youths they had had problems with. The soldiers found them near a local teashop and shot them after more argument.”
Their bodies were taken to Pegu General Hospital on Sunday morning on trishaws by the ward’s Peace and Development Council. The youths are to be cremated by the army in Sinphyukwin Cemetery in Pegu at noon today.
A doctor at the hospital reportedly said Aung Thu Hein had died of six gunshot wounds, while Soe Paing Zaw had been shot four times.
The incident has shocked and angered not only the victims’ relatives but also residents of Pegu, the capital of the division of the same name.
A relative of Soe Paing Zaw Hein told Mizzima outside the hospital morgue where hundreds of angry residents had gathered: “The bodies were not allowed to be taken away by the families. They are lying in the morgue.”
A family member of Aung Thu Hein said: “We heard that the officers, who are captains in the army, were drunk. So were the youngsters, or else the clash would not have occurred. We are furious with the officers for shooting the youths dead.”
Other reports said a battalion general staff officer had offered the families 1 million kyat (US$1,000) in compensation provided they remained silent over the incident, which fuelled further anger.
A monk said the problem extended beyond the family to the community at large. “If we don’t take any action, this will happen again,” he said.
Also, some residents said the shooting may trigger political unrest in Pegu, which had witnessed demonstrations during the monk-led “saffron revolution” in 2007.
“Everybody in the area is sad. The street is quiet. It is usually crowded with motorcycles and children playing,” a resident of Mya Street said.
A police second lieutenant attached to Ward Three station told Mizzima that the officer handling the case had gone out to investigate.
Meanwhile, the UDP statement said the party was very sorry for the victims who were shot dead by the captains in the clash. It also urged the authorities to maintain law and order in constituencies across the country.
The UDP party was approved by the Union Election Commission on May 28. Led by chairman Thein Htay, it will contest three constituencies in Pegu Division including Pegu city in nationwide elections on November 7.
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