Despite public calls that the bodies of the two men—shot dead in Myanmar—be returned to their families in India, a junta spokesperson says they were already cremated
The international border between Sagaing Region and India’s Manipur State has been closed in the aftermath of the murder of two Indian nationals in Myanmar’s territory last week, according to local sources.
The men, P. Mohan, 28, and M. Iyanar, 32, from Manipur’s Moreh town, were killed on July 5 after crossing the border on a shared motorcycle to attend a friend’s birthday party in Saw Bwar Inn village in Sagaing’s Tamu Township.
Multiple media outlets have cited eyewitness testimony that the perpetrators were members of the junta-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia active in the area; they allegedly stopped the men on the road before executing them with gunshots to the head.
“They shot them without saying anything,” a local man from Tamu told Myanmar Now.
The civilian National Unity Government released a statement on July 8 naming at least three Pyu Saw Htee members allegedly responsible, and offering condolences to the victims’ families.
“This case is clearly one of the many issues that highlight the fact that [the] Myanmar issue is not just an internal affair but a safeguard for all, which threatens the security and peace of the countries in the region,” it said.
More than 2,000 locals in Moreh staged a protest the day after the killings, demanding that the bodies of the two men—members of the ethnic Tamil community—be returned to their families. The demonstration escalated until the mob torched and destroyed a Myanmar junta police outpost on the border that afternoon.
On July 7, one day after the retaliation by the residents of Moreh, Myanmar military council spokesperson Gen Zaw Min Tun claimed in army-run media that the Indian nationals had been assassinated by members of the anti-junta People’s Defence Force (PDF) and that an investigation was underway.
He added that the bodies of the two men had been cremated in Tamu’s cemetery at 7am that day because the military authorities reportedly could not locate their families.
Tamu Township’s PDF chapter released its own statement later that evening denying involvement in the killings and backing local claims that the Pyu Saw Htee were responsible.
Other guerrilla groups based in Tamu released similar statements condemning the murders and naming the pro-junta militia as the perpetrators.
Indian security forces are pictured near the July 6 protest mob that demanded the bodies of the murder victims be returned to Moreh (Supplied)
Tension remained high at the border at the time of reporting, with locals barred from moving between Tamu and Moreh and trade coming to a near halt, residents said.
“We haven’t been able to do any work in the area since [the murders]. We can’t even cross the border. The Indian authorities have not been letting anyone in since July 5,” a local woman said on the condition of anonymity.
Local authorities in Moreh have reportedly issued an order banning gatherings of more than five people, leading to the closure of shops.
Those across the border in Tamu added that they were concerned about the safety of the thousands of displaced people from Myanmar staying on the Indian side of the border, having fled military raids in Sagaing.
The local man from Tamu said that there was no longer any guarantee of safety in the region.
“The Myanmar refugees staying in Indian territory don’t even dare to leave their temporary shelters. It’s very worrying,” he said.