Army captain gets 10-year prison sentence for shooting death of innocent civilian

May 24, 2019

On May 20th 2019, the Mawlamyine District Court sentenced Captain Aung Ko Ko Min from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) No. 587 to 10 years in prison for the shooting death of U Tin Soe Myint, a villager from Kalagoke Island, Ye Township, Mon State. The court’s decision comes one year and four days after the victim was shot and killed by the army captain for being unable to produce his National Registration Card (NRC).

Late last year, the victim’s family learned that the perpetrator had been court-martialed in relation to the incident and sentenced under sections 47(1) and 65 of the Defence Services Act (DSA), intoxication and breach of discipline, respectively. However, the army captain had not been charged under section 72 of the DSA, committing an offence of murder against a person not subject to military law while on active service.

Fearing that her husband’s killer would evade justice, the victim’s wife contacted the Mon State government and Military Operations Command No. 19 based in Ye City, though both appeals were largely met with silence. Undeterred, U Tin Soe Myint’ wife sought the assistance of the Myanmar National Human Rights Commission (MNHRC), and in November 2018 at the request of the MNHRC, the military agreed to transfer the army captain to a civilian court to face criminal charges. Criminal proceedings commenced on November 27th 2018.

He and I are not enemies…We don’t hold a grudge against one another. The decision was made by the state, and he deserves the sentence that he got. It was not me who got to decide…But I’m happy with the decision,” said Daw Khin Swe Tin, the victim’s wife.

It’s been very difficult for us to attend every court hearing…There have been about 30 hearings. On a few occasions, my daughter had to miss class so she could attend. We will get a paper copy of the court’s decision on May 27th,” Daw Khin Swe Tin continued.

Under article 20(b) of the 2008 Constitution of the Republic of the Union of Myanmar, “the Defence Services has the right to independently administer and adjudicate all affairs of the armed forces.” Consequently, members of the military often escape justice for crimes they commit, permitting the military to act against civilian populations with relative impunity.

News that Captain Aung Ko Ko Min has been brought to justice for the senseless killing of an innocent civilian is indeed promising, and will hopefully provide U Tin Soe Myint’s family with the justice they deserve.

Still, the successful intervention of the MNHRC in this case should be celebrated with caution. Unless broader efforts are made to increase transparency with respect to the selection of Commissioners, to secure autonomy and guaranteed independence from government, and ultimately to achieve full compliance with the Paris Principles, the MNHRC will never fully realize its mandate of creating a Burma where human rights are respected, protected, and fulfilled.

U Tin Soe Myint is survived by his wife and three children.

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