Myanmar watches a mother’s grief as junta soldiers claim another victim

Kyi says she begged soldiers to release her son, but they refused. Footage of her mourning beside his body has been viewed widely, just one of many similar stories

Kyi kneels on the ground, pleading for her son to wake up. Crouched beside a riverbank, she rocks back and forth, shaken with grief. Her son’s body, which has washed ashore, is motionless in the shallow water. One of his wrists is tied with rope. “My boy, I know it would be nice if you respond to me,” she cries.

It’s a video that has been seen widely within Myanmar – one Facebook video has been viewed more than a million times – but is also a scene that is tragically common. Videos and evidence of military killings are continually shared online – adding to the vast files of evidence being collected by rights groups, but also to the daily trauma that people are faced with.

Kyi’s son, Sin Pauk, was 28, a farmer and a caring son. “He was the only child and a very clever son to me,” Kyi tells the Guardian. He didn’t drink, smoke, or do drugs, she says, and was very religious.

His death occurred after the army entered Kinsanpya village in Kanni, in the Sagaing region of western Myanmar on 30 January, forcing the villagers to flee. He had gone to feed his ducks and was one of seven people unable to get away in time, all of whom were arrested.

Locals told Kyi that detainees were being kept on a boat by soldiers stationed inside the village that night. Kyi knew her son was among those being held. Despite the risk to her safety, she went back to the village to plead for his release.

It is not possible for the Guardian to independently verify the accounts given.

Kyi says she begged the soldiers, but they refused to let Sin Pauk go. She was not allowed to enter the boat to see him.

The body of Sin Pauk was eventually found, about 5km (three miles) away, in the river near Ta On village. Two other villagers, including 60-year-old San Aung, were found separately at a riverbank near Kinsanpya village on 3 February. The rest remain missing.

When her son’s body was found, he was wearing different clothes, Kyi said. His throat had been cut. “I wish they had the same karma as my son.”

“I waited for him since he always comes home to me, whatever it takes,” says Kyi. “I know he won’t leave me.”

Sin Pauk is one of more than 1,500 killed by the military since the coup last year.

Last week, as the country marked the one-year anniversary of the military’s seizure of power, the violence continued unabated. In the Sagaing region alone, the military launched an airstrike on a graduation ceremony for recruits to an anti-junta armed group, killing civilians, according to a report by Radio Free Asia. Hundreds of homes have also reportedly been burned.

The pace of atrocities perpetrated by the military, the dire security situation and unreliable communications pose major challenges for rights groups and journalists who try to document such events. Often, little is known about those who have been killed.

Min Ye Kyaw

The GuardianTramp

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