Thwe Thout’s logo on a lanyard left on a victim.
The new pro-regime Thwe Thout vigilante group has issued death threats against anti-regime forces and their family members and supporters.
In less than a week, it has murdered around eight people, seven in Mandalay and one in Yangon, mainly National League for Democracy (NLD) members and supporters.
The group announced on April 21 that, to counter resistance attacks on junta targets, it was launching “Operation Red” against the members and supporters of the NLD, their families and supporters of people’s defense forces formed by resistance fighters.
The group issued death threats against independent journalists exposing junta atrocities and their families.
Following the announcement, Thwe Thout killed an NLD ward chairman U Khin Maung Thein, who owned the Sein Win Win teashop in Chanayethazan Township, Mandalay, his brother-in-law U Tin, who was also an NLD member, and wounded U Khin Maung Thein’s wife, Daw Kha Kha.
U Khin Maung Thein’s body, with a gunshot and multiple knife wounds, and Daw Kha Kha, who was still alive at the time, were found on Monday morning outside the NLD office in Chanayethazan, a day after being seized by Thwe Thout. Daw Kha Kha was shot in the head and had knife wounds on her throat and head. Her condition is unknown.
U Tin, who was searching for the couple when he went missing, was found dead the same day at another location with a stabbed throat.
All three were left with Thwe Thout lanyards. The group posted graphic pictures of the victims with the lanyards on its Telegram channel.
A Mandalay resident told The Irrawaddy that at least seven more bodies, including an NLD member, an NLD election campaigner and the brother of NLD Maha Aung Myay lawmaker Ko Zaw Zaw Aung, were dumped with the group’s logo.
Thwe Thout has announced operations in Yangon, Naypyitaw and Kyaukse in Mandalay Region.
Gunmen killed the grandfather of actor Hein Htet, who has joined a people’s defense force, at the actor’s home on Wednesday in Mingaladon Township, Yangon. Thwe Thout in Yangon claimed responsibility.
Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun on Wednesday denied any association with the group.
He accused the National Unity Government, formed mostly by NLD lawmakers, of being behind the group to distort the junta’s image.
Residents and activists rejected his claim and said everyone knows Thwe Thout is another junta puppet, like the Pyu Saw Htee militias.
Bo Phoenix of the Rangers of Mandalay resistance group told The Irrawaddy that weapons used by Thwe Thout and other evidence proved it was supported by the regime.
Some witnesses reported seeing the victims’ bodies dumped by junta vehicles.
“Our main goal is to break the junta’s backers. We are watching the situation,” Bo Phoenix said.
Elected NLD lawmaker from Yangon Region U Bo Bo Oo, who escaped from junta detention following the coup, said Thwe Thout targets the party because it cannot undermine its popularity.
He said Thwe Thout is another terror campaign attempting to strengthen the dictatorship.
“Forming dark squads and paying people to murder opponents is an old tactic. Everybody knows the regime is behind it,” he added.
Sayadaw Agga Wuntha, a monk from Mandalay, who led anti-regime protests in Pyigyitagon Township, told The Irrawaddy that the regime’s attempt to silence opposition will fail.
“The more the regime kills innocent civilians and makes threats, the more the public will hate it and rise up. The revolution will not weaken,” the monk said.
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