Four people who died after their vehicle crashed into a power generator as security forces battled militia members in Myanmar’s second city were ordinary civilians “in the wrong place at the wrong time,” according to relatives who rejected claims by the military that they had fired on troops before the accident.
Open warfare broke out Tuesday morning between troops loyal to Myanmar’s junta and members of the People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia in downtown Mandalay, leaving at least five people dead after troops raided a PDF office in the city’s Chanmya Tharzi township. The clashes marked the first in the cosmopolitan city of more than 1.7 million people since the military took over the government in a February coup, prompting widespread protests.
In a statement issued later that day, the military said that at some point during the fighting, the occupants of a white Pajero SUV fired at troops, prompting a chase that ended when the vehicle crashed into a power transformer, killing all four of the occupants.
The occupants of the car were later identified as ethnic Ta’ang nationals Mai Nai Tun Kyi, Mai Naing Lai, and Mai Chit Shwe, as well as Mandalay native Arr Ti.
On Wednesday, RFA’s Myanmar Service spoke with members of the victims’ families who dismissed the military’s allegations that the four were members of the PDF. Instead, they said, the young men were friends who collectively owned a poultry farm in Mandalay’s Singu township.
According to the relatives, the four had been conducting business downtown and were returning to Singu by car when they realized that they were driving into a firefight. They stopped the car, turned around and sped off, the family members said, but troops fired on them, and the vehicle slammed into the generator.
Mai A’nai, the father of Mai Naing Lai, who was married earlier this month, said the four men were still alive after crashing their vehicle.
“They had nothing to do with PDF—they just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time,” he said.
“When they turned back from the scene of fighting, the soldiers opened fire at them … I heard that they were fired at with a kind of a rocket or grenade.”
Mai A’nai said the bodies of the four are still at the hospital and that he was unsure whether the military would return them to their families.
Shadow government warning
In separate fighting to the west of Mandalay, sources said that at least two officers were killed Tuesday when a militia group known as the Myingyan Township ZERO Guerillas raided a police station in Mandalay region’s Ngazun township, while a PDF member was killed the same day during a clash with military troops in Sagaing region’s Yinmabin township.
Residents of Kayin state’s Myawaddy township, on the border of Thailand, told RFA that a local ward administrator was killed by unidentified gunman in a shooting on Wednesday morning that may have been related to reports he was feeding information about anti-junta activities to the military.
RFA was unable to independently verify the number of casualties in the incidents and attempts to reach junta spokesman General Zaw Min Tun for comment went unanswered on Wednesday.
In the aftermath of Tuesday’s clashes, Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) issued a national level warning instructing every household to ready supplies that include a first aid kit, batteries, drinking water and dry rations, as well as a plan to access safe shelter and trustworthy information, in the case of an emergency.
Attempts by RFA to contact NUG Defense Minister Yi Mon for comment on the reason behind announcing a state of emergency went unanswered Wednesday.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), the military has killed at least 877 people since it orchestrated a coup on Feb. 1, claiming that the ruling National League for Democracy’s (NLD) landslide victory in the country’s November 2020 election was the result of widespread voter fraud. The junta has yet to present evidence of its claims and security forces have responded to nationwide protests with deadly force.
AAPP says some 5,088 people have been detained, charged, or sentenced in the five months since the coup.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
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