Rescued From Execution, Fathers Weep For Their Sons in Myanmar

Their hands were bound tightly behind their backs for the night. They heard they were going to be executed the next morning.

U Maung Khin Swe recalls a junta officer ordering his men to kill him and nine other civilians captured by retreating junta troops in Rakhine State’s Minbya Township for use as porters and human shields. He believes the officer was the commander.

They were in a forest.

He’s certain, however, that the mass execution was the second order. The first was to kill a cow and a buffalo that had been found. The animals were killed that evening for food; the civilians were to be killed the next morning.

U Maung Khin says he was among 10 porters still alive, after being captured by soldiers retreating from the junta’s 9th Central Military Training School in Minbya Township last month. About 20 civilians had been captured after the school – the last of the junta’s military strongholds in the township – was seized by the Arakan Army on Feb. 26.

As junta troops fled, they rounded up civilians to carry water and other necessities for them during their trek through forests. In total, about 20 were captured and detained. At least three were shot dead before the final night of captivity. What happened to the seven still missing is not yet known.

U Maung Khin Swe had been gathering bamboo in a forest around Sabar Htar village, his home, with his 16-year-old son, Nay Myo Chit, and his son-in-law – 33-year-old Kyaw Myo Hlaing – when they were captured by junta troops.

“We were forced to carry water for them. We were kicked when we slipped,” he says in a video released on Thursday by the Arakan Army. The video shows the testimony of two fathers who, along with their sons, were forced to be porters for junta troops in Rakhine State.

The fathers survived. They are enraged and bewildered.

“They shot my son and son-in-law dead while marching through the forest,” U Maung Khin Swe tells the camera. “I am very angry that they killed my sons. I want the Arakan Army to take severe action against them.”

U Maung Than Myint has a similar story. He and his 18-year-old son Kyaw Win were also grabbed by retreating soldiers while gathering bamboo in a forest.

“I couldn’t stand seeing my son being tied and beaten in front of me. I couldn’t do anything except cry,” he tells the camera.

Like U Maung Khin Swe, and their sons, he was beaten. They were also refused food and water. “We were not allowed to eat food and drink water even though we had to carry things for them,” U Maung Than Myint says. His son was shot dead in the forest, he recalls.

At about 4:50 a.m., as the captured porters waited, with their hands bound behind their backs, for sunrise and execution, soldiers from the Arakan Army attacked. They escaped while their captors were fighting to save their own lives.

In the battle, Arakan Army troops killed several regime fighters, including the lieutenant colonel commanding the fleeing unit.

“We would all have soon been killed by regime forces if we were not rescued by Arakan Army troops. We thank our Arakan Army,” U Maung Than Myint says in the video.

Irrawaddy News