“They grabbed them and just killed them,” Saw Tha Eh Soe, a militant spokesperson from local resistance group the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF)—who uses a pseudonym for his protection—told VICE World News. “They killed these villagers even while they were sheltering.”Footage obtained by the KNDF, seen by VICE World News, shows scores of bodies strewn outside of the Nanneint monastery building, with the victims seemingly having been gathered into small groups before being killed execution style. There are bullet holes in their bodies and their heads. All of them, excluding the monks, are dressed in civilian clothing.But not all of the civilians are spoken for. When KNDF militants entered Nanneint on March 12, the day after the massacre, they were only able to locate two thirds of the known casualties.“We know that in the monastery there were 33 people… but we only found 22 bodies,” said Saw Tha Eh Soe. “The rest are still missing, and we don’t know for sure if they are dead or have been kidnapped.”Saw Tha Eh Soe believes the remaining 11 have been arrested for the purposes of propaganda, as the military cries fake news about the massacre allegations and pins the blame back on the resistance. By detaining survivors of the mass killing, Saw Tha Eh Soe says, the junta may be able to force them to testify against KNDF or some other arm of the People’s Defence Forces (PDF).
Such violence and brutality is not entirely new. Since seizing control of Myanmar via a coup in February 2021, the military junta has killed an estimated 3,000 civilians and detained nearly 20,000 others. In January, Human Rights Watch declared that over the past two years, security forces had consistently carried out a raft of war crimes and crimes against humanity that included mass killings, arbitrary arrests and detention, torture, sexual violence, and attacks on civilians in conflict areas.Anthony Davis, a security analyst with Janes, a defense and security publisher, specializing in insurgency, terrorism, and military affairs in the Asia-Pacific, suggested that the recent spate of violence by the Burmese military takes things to new heights.“Within the space of a couple of weeks, we’ve seen two really ghastly, blatant massacres of civilians,” Davis told VICE World News. “If this were to happen in Ukraine, it would be all over the front page of every newspaper on the planet. But because it’s in Myanmar, we don’t bother about it so much.”“Make no mistake though: this is medieval butchery.”The junta has noticeably hardened its hostility towards civilians of late. Throughout February, the military introduced martial law orders for a total of 40 additional townships across Myanmar, effectively granting the military extreme legal authority and denying citizens—who can now be criminally charged for something as seemingly innocuous as spreading false news—the right to appeal convictions handed down by military tribunals. HRW condemned the move as a greenlight for further military abuses and a denial of rights such as free speech and a fair trial.
“If this were to happen in Ukraine, it would be all over the front page of every newspaper on the planet.
It’s reasonable to expect that this has rattled the military generals, said Davis, and prompted them to issue a stern directive: to get things under control, and do it fast.
Caleb Quinley contributed reporting.