Five ethnic youths were found dead in Myanmar's Shan state, allegedly after having been held by national military officials, witnesses and local sources said Thursday.
An eyewitness told VOA's Burmese service that the bodies of five villagers were discovered Wednesday in a grave in a maize field near Mong Yaw village, about 30 miles east of Lashio, a major city in northern Shan state. The witness, a local villager, said the youths appeared to have been shot. Several shell casings were found near the bodies.
"They were youths from Mong Yaw village," the villager said. "Two are ethnic Shan and three are from the Palaung community.”
Other local sources told VOA the youths were field laborers who went missing during last Saturday's offensive by the military in Myanmar, also known as Burma.
"The army was said to have taken them, but we don’t know for sure the military killed them," Sai Wan Leng Kham, an Upper House representative from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy party, told VOA Burmese.
Military officials were not immediately available for comment, but Shan State Police Chief Aung Myat Moe said no one had officially reported the incident. His own detectives, he added, won't be able to investigate the case because of ongoing armed conflict in the region.
“We can’t confirm the report," he said. "It’s difficult to access the area where insurgents are active. We’re expecting someone might file a case, but no one came forward to report the incident. So far, [this is] only hearsay.”
Regional tensions between the ethnic Shan and Palaung communities have been stoked in recent months, resulting in a number of unexplained killings.
Clashes between the groups, and between each individual group and military personnel who police the region, are frequently reported. Funerals for the victims were held Thursday.
This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Burmese service.