At least 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, were killed on Saturday at a monastery in Myanmar’s Southern Shan State. The incident has been referred to as a massacre of civilians by opponents of military rule. The military-backed junta and local insurgent groups have both accused each other of carrying out the massacre. Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said that the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and another rebel group entered Nan Neint village after government forces arrived to provide security with a local people’s militia. However, a post-mortem report suggested that automatic weapons were likely used at close range to kill 22 people, including three saffron-robed monks.
Photos and a video provided by KNDF showed 21 bodies piled up around the Nan Nein Monastery, many of whom were seen wearing civilian clothes and had multiple gunshot wounds. The video showed bullet holes on the walls of the monastery, and the bodies were seen lined up and slumped against the monastery’s walls with pools of blood on the ground below. According to local media reports and satellite images verified by Myanmar Witness, an organisation that documents human rights violations, fighting had been raging in the area for at least two weeks, with about 100 structures burnt down in and around the site of the alleged massacre in Nan Neint.
Conflicting accounts of the massacre have emerged in the aftermath of the killings at the monastery. KNDF spokesman Philip Soe Aung told CNN that “the Burmese military killed three monks and 19 civilians on 11 March…our troops arrived at the monastery on 12 March and saw the dead bodies”. The military, however, denied harming any civilians and said that its troops had been involved in clashes with rebel fighters in the Pinlaung region of southern Shan state. The incident has led to further condemnation of the military junta that seized power in February and has been met with ongoing protests and civil disobedience across the country.