2023 The Al Neuharth Innovation in Investigative Journalism Award, Small Newsroom finalist

‘I had to cut off the head, bro’

About the Project

Radio Free Asia is pleased to offer a three-part investigation from mid-2022 of a Myanmar soldier’s cellphone discovered in the field in strife-torn Sagaing region, a hotbed of the resistance to the military junta that seized power on Feb. 1, 2021. After painstaking review and verification of videos, images and metadata by RFA reporters in Asia and Washington, DC, documented the slaughter of 29 male villagers. Troops maimed and burned the bodies in a 44-hour orgy of violence on May 10-12, 2022. Crude recorded video exchanges among the phone owner’s comrades bragging about how many they killed and how they did it were translated and allowed RFA reporters to tie specific troops to these atrocities. Photos showing men tied up with their hands behind their backs on monastery grounds enabled RFA to document the names and ages of all 29 victims, including three brothers from a single family. RFA spoke to family members, friends, and sources throughout Myanmar’s civil society to identify the victims and then reported on how soldiers violently arrested and killed them. Finally, we also used satellite imagery to demonstrate the scale of destruction in Sagaing.