Elderly civilians killed in Myanmar military arson attack in Monywa

Three elderly civilians were killed in a fire set by junta soldiers in a Monywa, Sagaing Region village on Wednesday, area residents and members of local resistance forces told Myanmar Now. 

The 100-soldier military column said to be responsible for the arson attack is believed to have first raided a base three miles south of Monywa town at 6am. The site belonged to the Anonymous Revolution Force, an officer in an allied guerrilla group said, adding that 12 members of the force, including its leader, were arrested. 

Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify those details. 

The Myanmar army soldiers then proceeded to the 250-household community of Hta Naung Taw (South), two miles further south, which they torched. 

Caregiver Htay Maung, 70, had reportedly stayed behind to take care of two individuals who were paraplegic: his  80-year-old mother-in-law Kaung Hmu and another villager, Sein Lin, 70. They were identified as having been burned alive in the blaze, unable to flee. 

“It appeared that Htay Maung was hiding in the house when the military arrived, locked it from the outside and set it on fire,” a surviving villager said. “We even had to break in, using great force, when we were trying to put out the fires. He was still, but barely, alive when we carried him out. He only died after we got him out.”

Another officer in the Monywa’s People’s Defence Force confirmed the deaths and said that the junta troops looted homes in Hta Naung Taw before setting fire to them. 

A resident of Hta Naung Taw said that the military left at around 11:30am and that some 68 homes were destroyed in the attack. 

Video footage released by the anti-junta Monywa Township Information Department showed locals and resistance fighters trying to extinguish the fire, but most struggled to get close to the flames, which reached more than two storeys high. 

The villager from Hta Naung Taw who spoke to Myanmar Now said that the soldiers started firing their weapons as soon as they arrived, causing residents—including him—to flee. Some people were captured, but their whereabouts unknown at the time of reporting. 

An information officer for another area resistance group, the Chindwin Attack Force, claimed that the Myanmar army had been attacking the township “from all directions.” In retaliation, around 10 local defence teams fired some 50 artillery shells at the Northwestern Military Command in Monywa, but it was not known how much damage was inflicted. 

At midnight on Wednesday, the group also claimed to have shot two 120mm shells at a junta jailhouse under construction in the village of Thazi, between Monywa and Ayadaw townships. 

The military council has not released any information on its troops’ actions in Monywa.

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