Bodies of five PDF members abducted by junta found in Htigyaing

The bodies of five members of a local People’s Defence Force (PDF) were found on Sunday after being forcibly taken by the military during a land and air attack on Sagaing Region’s Htigyaing Township three days earlier. 

On January 13, the Myanmar army had ambushed a PDF base near Marathein village, some five miles southwest of Htigyaing town, killing one member of the resistance force and taking five others hostage, according to the Htigyaing PDF spokesperson. 

“One was killed and five others were taken to be used as human shields until they were ultimately killed. They were found buried. We only managed to exhume their bodies the other day,” the spokesperson told Myanmar Now on Tuesday. 

He identified the victims as Aung Aung Oo, 18; Shine Htet Aung and Sai Htet Myat, both 22; and Naing Hnaung Htet and Sai Aung, both 32.

They were buried in separate graves near Kyun Pin Tharyar village, also near Marathein. Some of the deceased PDF members had knife wounds to their bodies, and others had bullet wounds. 

The body of Toe Wai, an 18-year-old PDF member killed in the initial battle, was also found on the same day.

Htigyaing PDF member Toe Way, 18, was killed during a battle near Marathein village on January 13 (Supplied)

A junta infantry squadron had been occupying an area near Marathein since January 11, with reinforcement troops sent to the area by helicopter on the early morning of January 13. By 6am that day, the military began bombing and shelling the PDF base from fighter jets. 

A man from the nearby village of Sinkyun said that one PDF member was killed and three others wounded in the attack. Of the four, two were from his own community, one from Pein Hne Kone, and one from Kyee Kan Daunt. 

Several villagers from the area were also forced to serve as human shields for the junta soldiers, he added. 

“Several people from Kyee Kan Daunt were taken by the military and used as human shields on their trip to Mei Za Li and were released on arrival at Mei Za Li village. They were beaten and interrogated as well,” he told Myanmar Now. “Then they once again took villagers from Mei Za Li and torched three houses there.”

Another local woman confirmed the military’s recent use of human shields and the destruction of property in the area. 

“They would stop every villager they saw and interrogate them. An older man was taken when they were searching the school in Mei Za Li village. I think they were afraid of explosive devices,” she explained. “They made him go before them to places they thought were rigged with explosives. They dragged out everything that was inside the school, piled it up and burned it.”

The military council released a statement in a junta-run newspaper claiming that they had managed to occupy a PDF base located in a school in Marathein village. The statement did not mention the airstrikes or the death of the PDF members. 

While the junta claimed that the school had been destroyed by the PDF, the resistance group said it was the military that had set fire to the building. 

The junta’s armed forces were still occupying and patrolling Htigyaing Township at the time of reporting, and villagers who fled their homes had yet to return. 

Local defence forces have repeatedly intercepted junta columns travelling by road or along the Irrawaddy River through Htigyaing. The military typically responds by firing heavy artillery or attacking from the air. 

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