BANGKOK – After being captured and slain by the military, a high school teacher’s decapitated body was left on macabre display at his school in central Myanmar, according to witnesses on Thursday, marking the most recent of numerous claimed atrocities as the army strives to squash dissent to military rule.
The headless body of 46-year-old Saw Tun Moe was dumped on the ground in front of the school’s spiked gate and his head was impaled on top of it, according to eyewitness accounts and images captured in Taung Myint hamlet in the rural Magway district. Additionally burned was the school, which has been shuttered since last year.
Information concerning the teacher’s passing has not been made public by either the military administration or the state-run media.
Since seizing control of the country from Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected administration last year, the military in Myanmar has detained tens of thousands of people and been held accountable for the deaths of more than 2,300 civilians.
Ned Price, a spokesman for the US State Department, wrote on Twitter, “We are shocked by reports that Burma’s military regime arrested, publicly dismembered, and beheaded a schoolteacher in Magway Region. “The international community must take forceful action in reaction to the regime’s terrible violence, including against educators.” Officially, the United States still refers to Myanmar as Burma, the previous name for the country that was altered by a military regime.
In a helicopter attack on a school inside a Buddhist monastery in the Sagaing region of north-central Myanmar in September, at least seven young kids were killed. The military regime denied being behind the assaults. The U.N. Child Rights Committee reported in June that since the army took over, there have been 260 verified attacks on schools and educational employees.
Since the military’s takeover of power in February 2021, there have been widespread, peaceful protests and acts of civil disobedience that security forces have violently put down. Widespread armed resistance to the persecution resulted, and this resistance eventually escalated into what U.N. experts have called a civil war.
The army has carried out significant offensives in the countryside, razing villages and displacing hundreds of thousands of civilians, giving them little to no access to humanitarian aid.
Serious human rights atrocities by the Myanmar military have long been alleged, most notably in the western state of Rakhine. In a deadly counterinsurgency operation in 2017 that forced more than 700,000 members of the Muslim Rohingya minority to escape to neighboring Bangladesh for safety, international courts are examining whether it committed genocide there.
Long-time educator Saw Tun Moe, who was killed, had taken control of a high school established by the nation’s pro-democracy movement in his native Thit Nyi Naung hamlet. Prior to that, he had taken part in anti-military protests.
This year, the National Unity Government, a clandestine group opposed to military rule that poses as the nation’s legitimate executive body, established a network of schools as a temporary educational system in regions of the nation where it believed armed militias devoted to it were capable of defending themselves.
Saw Tun Moe also participated in the management of Thit Nyi Naung, where he resided with his family, and taught mathematics at his village school and another local alternative school. He had previously spent 20 years as a teacher at Magway, commonly known as Magwe.
He and other deceased teachers were lauded as “revolutionary heroes” in a statement released by the NUG’s education wing late on Thursday, and sympathy was shown with the educators and students who are still resisting the military.
His passing happened this month when a column of approximately 90 government soldiers conducted sweeps of at least a dozen nearby villages.
About 20 villagers, including Saw Tun Moe, were hiding behind a hut in a peanut field at 9:30 on Sunday when a group of over 80 military and armed citizens arrived and began firing their weapons into the air, according to a villager who spoke with The Associated Press by phone. Armed civilian auxiliary personnel is used by the military in raids and as guides.
The villager, who requested anonymity out of concern for retribution from the authorities, claimed they were apprehended by the army, who stole their phones and other possessions and, at an officer’s order, separated three men from the group but only took Saw Tun Moe with them.
We were afraid to look at them at the time, so we bowed our heads. Later, a soldier called to him and said, “Come. Come, obese guy, follow us,” and they dragged him off. We didn’t think this would happen because the soldiers were so kind to him, the villager remarked.
She claimed that the following day, Saw Tun Moe was killed at Taung Myint hamlet, more than a kilometer (nearly a mile) north of Thit Nyi Naung.
“I found out he had been killed on Monday morning. It is quite sorry to lose a terrific teacher on whom we relied to provide for the education of our kids, the villager continued. She claimed that both of her kids attended his school.
After the soldiers had left, a resident of Taung Myint hamlet claimed to have seen Saw Tun Moe’s body at around 11 a.m. on Monday.
“I first phoned my buddies before taking a closer look at the body. I recognized Teacher Moe right away. I recognized his face because he recently visited our hamlet as a schoolteacher, said the Taung Myint villager, who also requested to remain unnamed for his own protection.
The teacher’s body and head were captured on camera by his friend. The corpse’s thigh was covered with an old campaign poster featuring Suu Kyi’s images. According to the villagers, his right hand’s severed fingers were placed between his thighs. The nation’s civil disobedience movement, which was motivated by “The Hunger Games” books, adopted the three-finger salute.
I will be back, you (expletive) who ran away, is written in menacing graffiti on the outside of the school, which the military partially burnt Sunday.