Content warning: This article contains pictures and detailed descriptions of killings, which may be upsetting to some readers.
Another 10 deaths have been attributed to a junta column accused of committing a string of grisly murders in southern Sagaing Region since late last month, according to local sources.
The so-called “Ogre Column” of around 70 troops from the military’s Light Infantry Division (LID) 99 carried out its latest killings while occupying the village of Lakkapin in Myinmu Township from March 5 to 7, the sources said.
The bodies of five of the victims were found in the Ayeyarwady River soon after the troops left the village, while the other five were also discovered in the river over the next two days, they added.
According to a resident of the village, most of the deceased were internally displaced persons (IDPs) from Ma Yoe Kone, a village located about 10km from Lakkapin.
“Eight of the bodies belonged to IDPs from Ma Yoe Kone. One was cut in half, and his face was burned,” the local said, adding that the IDPs had arrived in Lakkapin just a day before it was raided.
Only one of the victims could be identified at the time of reporting. Witnesses said that the body of Lakkapin resident Soe Htike, 32, showed signs of torture, including severe injuries to his face and cuts on his neck and ribs.
Residents of Lakkapin told Myanmar Now that the village was raided at around 4am on March 5. Almost the entire population of the village was captured and detained after the regime forces surrounded it on all four sides, they said.
While most were held in the village monastery over the next three days, some captives—the very young and very old—were reportedly released on the evening of March 5.
According to one villager, several gunshots were heard in the village on March 6, but it was unclear who was shooting or why.
When the troops left on March 7, they took several prisoners with them—most notably, Sayadaw Agga Wuntha, a Buddhist monk and prominent opponent of the regime. He and four others taken with him are believed to be in junta custody.
The Meiktila-based Ogre Column has been carrying out raids on villages in southern Sagaing Region since it was transported to the village of Ma Le Thar in Ayadaw Township by helicopter on February 24.
Over the next few days, it captured and killed five resistance fighters in neighbouring Myinmu Township. Four victims, all in their teens, were beheaded, while the fifth was cut into pieces.
By March 1, the column had reached Tar Taing, a village in Sagaing Township, where it killed 17 people. One victim, a local resistance leader named Kyaw Zaw, was later found disembowelled and with his head, legs and arms cut off.
None of the other victims, who included three women, were members of any anti-regime group, according to locals who spoke to Myanmar Now.
However, pro-junta social media accounts have since claimed that the massacre was the result of a conflict among resistance forces operating in the area.
The regime and its proxies have yet to release a statement regarding the deaths in Lakkapin.
On March 11, regime forces also killed 29 civilians, including three monks, at a monastery in southern Shan State’s Pinlaung Township. The junta has also attempted to blame that massacre on groups opposed to its rule.