Prawn farm massacre

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Prawn farm massacre
Location of Sri Lanka
Prawn farm massacre is located in Sri Lanka
Prawn farm massacre
Location Kokkadichcholai, Sri Lanka
Coordinates 7°37′N 81°43′E / 7.617°N 81.717°E / 7.617; 81.717Coordinates: 7°37′N 81°43′E / 7.617°N 81.717°E / 7.617; 81.717
Date January 27, 1987 (+6 GMT)
Target Sri Lankan Tamil village residents
Attack type
Armed massacre
Weapons Automatics rifles, Knives, axes
Deaths 83
Perpetrators Special Task Force

The Prawn farm massacre, also known as the 1987 Kokkadichcholai massacre, took place on January 27, 1987 in the village of Kokkadichcholai, Sri Lanka. At least 83 people who worked at the farm were killed.[1] [2] The Special Task Force, an elite special forces unit of the Sri Lanka Police specialising in counter-terrorist and counter-insurgency operations, is accused of having perpetrated the massacre.[2][3][4] The foreign owner of the farm sued the government and eventually the victims were paid some monetary compensation.[5]


As part of the ongoing Sri Lankan civil war, a shrimp culture farm was owned by Serendip Seafood Limited, a business located in Mahiladiththivu and owned by Hong Kong based American investors in conjunction with local partners was attacked and destroyed in 1987. It employed a large number of local workers.[6] One of the prominent local partners was Sam Tambimuttu, a lawyer. He became Member of Parliament (MP) on Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) / Eelam Peoples Liberation Front (EPRLF) ticket in 1989.

At the time of the attack it was believed that Tamil militant groups (mainly LTTE, EPRLF, and EROS), were using the farm as a base for their activities. However, when the Farm was raided by the Special Task Force (STF), all the militants have fled the site and only the farm workers remained.[4]


Relatives of the victims said that on January 27, 1987, a number of helicopters circled the area. The military entered the village from Vellaveli, Kondavedduvan, Kaluvanchikudi and Kallandy camps in military trucks. At a nearby junction, a military vehicle was parked and the Special Task Force officers exited the vehicle and walked into the prawn farm. The Special Task Force gathered up the employees outside and checked their identity cards.

The employees were rounded up, herded onto a semi-trailer, taken to a road junction and shot dead. Seven of the victims were boys aged 12 to 14. Forty others who had sought refuge in the farm were also shot and killed. The bodies were later burnt on piles of old tyres obtained by the security forces from the town's bus depot.[7]

The relatives of the victims alleged that STF personnel invaded a house near the farm, threatening the residents not to speak about the massacre or report it to anyone. The relatives further added that the bodies were put into a semi-trailer and driven out of town.[2] [8]


The government denied the massacre at the farm, but the Managing Director of Serendip Seafood Limited, Victor Santhiapillai, who was a former Executive Director of the International Trade Centre (a United Nations body) and the company's former Manager, together with Consultant to the company Bruce Cyr (an American national) rebutted the government's denial and confirmed that the massacre did in fact take place.

They also contradicted the government's claim that those killed were either terrorists or that they died in the crossfire. Rejecting the government's Media Centre claim Santhiapillai said, "I totally reject the Media Centre's charge that the 22 Serendib Seafood's staff members (plus 12 still missing) who were shot by the security forces were terrorists, The Centre must find some other more intelligent and plausible ways of handling such incidents."[7]


  1. ^ Rajasingam, K. T (2002-03-30). "Sri Lanka: The untold Story, Chapter 33: India shows its hand". Asian Times. Retrieved 2007-07-18. 
  2. ^ a b c McConnell, D. (2008). "The Tamil people's right to self-determination" (PDF). Cambridge Review of International Affairs. 21 (1): 59–76. doi:10.1080/09557570701828592. Retrieved 2008-03-25. 
  3. ^ Hoole, Rajan (2002-05-14). "Kokkadichcholai massacre and after". University Teachers for Human Rights. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  4. ^ a b McGowan, William (1992). Only Man Is Vile: The Tragedy of Sri Lanka. Farrar Straus & Giroux. pp. 243–244. ISBN 0-374-22652-0. 
  5. ^ Mines (edit), Diana (2002). Everyday Life in South Asia. Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-21521-8.  p. 367
  6. ^ Gharavi, Hamid (1998-05-01). "Arbitration under Bilateral Investment Treaties, American Arbitration Association's A.D.R.J. and Mealey's Int. Arb. Report, May 1998". Salans. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2007-10-24. Retrieved 2007-07-19. 
  7. ^ a b "Military operations in the East". The Island (Sri Lanka). 1987-02-04. 
  8. ^ Trawick, Margaret (2007). Enemy Lines: Warfare, Childhood and Play in Batticaloa. University of California Press. pp. Chapter 4. ISBN 0-520-24516-4. Retrieved 2007-08-30. 

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