Charred bodies of Karenni civilians found following Myanmar army assault

The burnt bodies of five civilians were found in early March by a local defence force in two villages in Karenni (Kayah) State, following a series of attacks by junta forces in the region. 

Members of the anti-junta Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) discovered the remains of three people in Sin Taung village, near the town of Nan Mei Khon in Demoso Township, on March 2. Two more bodies were located in Kwat Thit in Nan Hpe village tract in Bawlakhe Township on March 4, following a battle between the Myanmar Army and the KNDF that broke out earlier that day. 

A member of the KNDF’s Battalion 3, which entered Sin Taung after the military left the village, said that the occupying junta forces had shot and killed three locals, then put the bodies inside a house and detonated a bomb at the residence. 

Only the victims’ bones remained, he told Myanmar Now on Monday. 

Another Sin Taung home was torched after the soldiers had ransacked it, he added. 

The bodies found in Kwat Thit belonged to a woman and a man, a member of the KNDF’s Battalion 16 said. The resistance force entered the area after the military retreat. 

“They were just regular civilians. They weren’t supporters of any party or organisation, including our own. They didn’t even know that the junta column was coming,” he said of the victims, who had also been burned.

The burned body of a man killed in Kwat Thit village on March 4 (KNDF)

The body of the woman was found in a hole dug in her garden and the man’s remains were found among other ashes on a hill in the village. He reportedly had bullet wounds to his body, the KNDF member said, and added that the individual could not be positively identified.

The junta troops accused of killing the civilians belonged to a unit of between 50 and 100 soldiers who also allegedly forced three villagers to guide them through the area as they retreated from the March 4 clash with resistance forces. 

“We saw that they had badges bearing the numbers 55 and 66. I think they were airlifted here. We saw helicopters landing around Bawlakhe two days ago,” the KNDF member told Myanmar Now on Monday.

As the troops left Kwat Thit, they reportedly set fire to three homes but the residents managed to escape, albeit with burns. The soldiers also are accused of torching another house in the neighbouring village of Thayar Kone, and a car located between the two communities. 

Around 2,000 locals from Bu Khu, Daw Khu Thit, Kwat Thit, Salel Lon and Thayar Kone villages were displaced by the fighting on March 4. 

The allied Karenni Army and the KNDF have been attacking junta bases in Hpruso and Bawlakhe using guerrilla tactics and claim to have inflicted multiple casualties. 

Since February, junta forces have been carrying out intensified assaults in Karenni State, often carried out by reinforcement troops from bases in Moebye in southern Shan State. 

The military has repeatedly denied responsibility for attacks on civilians, and maintains that it is fighting “terrorists,” a classification used to describe resistance forces. 

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