Christmas Eve Massacre in Karenni State, Burma: Update 31 January 2022.
9 February, 2022
Karenni State, Burma
**Warning disturbing content
Burma Army troops from Division 66 shot, stabbed, and burned alive 45 Karenni villagers on Christmas Eve, at 1100 am, 24 December 2021 in Hpruso, Karenni State, Burma. A Karenni FBR relief team responded to the massacre and found the burned remains in the back of four trucks. The bodies of six others were found within 100 meters of the massacre site. These were people who came from their homes nearby when they saw the burning vehicles. They were tied up and executed by the Burma Army. Their bodies were not burned.
The area of the massacre is on the western outskirts of Hpruso at 19 25 26.58 N 97 06 01.83 E.
On 27 January 2022, an FBR headquarters team visited the site of the massacre, recorded the scene of the killing, talked to the first responders, and found the place where six people who came to investigate were tied up and executed. The ropes used to tie them, their blood, and their hair were still on the ground. Their family members had removed the bodies for burial. The trucks, sedans, motorcycles, and one small tractor were still there, all burned. The bones of the victims were scattered around. It was a horrible sight and chilling, especially as the Burma Army is still positioned at a base that can be seen from the site. The team had to work quickly to avoid being detected.
The coup of February 1, 2021, brought an onslaught of Burma Army attacks against the people of Burma as the people resisted the military take-over. In Karenni State, the crackdown was especially severe with civilians being shot on sight, churches shelled, and over 100,000 people forced from their homes. Two of our FBR relief team members were killed while trying to help people escape.
This group of escaping people was trying to evade pursuit on a small dirt road and ran into a surprise Burma Army checkpoint. They were captured, killed, and burned. There were no survivors. Six others who came to investigate were also captured and killed. According to an autopsy performed after the bodies were recovered, the people had been executed by a gunshot to the head and chest, by having their throats cut, and some by being burned alive. The Burma Army shot at and shelled all who tried to come near for three days afterwards, and it was not until the 27th that the Karenni Army of the Karenni National Progressive Party (KNPP), a pro-democracy ethnic armed group, was able to get to the scene.
The Karenni Army / KNPP soldiers interviewed said that a sedan and then three trucks carrying gas were stopped first. The trucks were driven by civilians and were carrying gas to sell to IDPs and local villages. The next three trucks, five motorcycles, and a small tractor stopped were filled with civilians fleeing to a safer location to the south. In total 12 vehicles were burned.
At 11:00 am on December 24th the KNPP and Karenni Army both reported hearing gunshots and seeing a large fire. The fire attracted the attention of other civilians in the area.
- Four local Karenni Border Guard Force (BGF), which are local proxy forces of the Burma Army, attempted to approach and investigate the site. They were captured and executed by the Burma Army. The site of their execution is 60 yards from where the truck were burned. In this case, the Burma Army killed members of their own force.
- Two local Karenni villagers also went to investigate and they were also executed, 70 yards away from where the trucks were burned. Their bodies were removed later by family members. Blood stains and hair clumps were still visible a month later.
On the morning of 25 December 2021, the KNPP sent a small force to investigate the location. The Burma Army anticipated this and as the KNPP approached they began shooting. Fighting between the two forces continued until 26 December.
27 December 2021, the Karenni Army was able to reinforce their line and the Burma Army withdrew to their base. At this time the area was secured and a formal investigation of the incident by the Karenni Army, Karenni Peoples Defense Force, and Karenni State Police was able to begin at 4:00 pm. The bodies were removed from the location and taken to the Demoso area where a Karenni medical team could examine them properly.
By this time a list of the missing had been compiled by local villagers. The doctors referenced this list as they tried to identify the bodies. Some bodies were identified by the clothing or jewelry they wore. The remaining victims’ age and sex were identified by measuring their bones. The doctors also attempted to determine the cause of death and whether the people were alive or dead when burned. Those alive when burned would have sustained burns to the inside of the esophagus and lungs.
The evidence gathered clearly showed:
- Victims’ hands were tied.
- The lungs of some victims were burned.
- Victims were shot it in the head.
- Victims were shot in the body
29 December 2021, the Karenni community held a ceremony and laid the dead to rest.
The images below were taken during the investigation. FBR was provided with some of the photos by the Karenni Army, some were taken by the local FBR team, and some were taken by the FBR HQ team. Some of these photos have been published earlier.
Please pray for the families of the victims and that justice would be done and that the Burma Army would stop their attacks and leave the area. This will take a miracle from God and we pray for that. Below are photos of the massacre, the forensic investigation, and the funeral service for the victims.
God bless you,
Free Burma Rangers