Entire family killed during junta attack on village in Sagaing’s Kanbalu Township

When he found out that his wife, son and daughter had been murdered by the junta’s forces during a raid on his village in Sagaing Region, Thein Zaw went looking for the soldiers, according to two survivors of the attack.

While many others were fleeing Pay Lel on Saturday morning the 50-year-old, overwhelmed with grief, ran towards the danger. 

“I heard that Thein Zaw ran into the village after hearing the news about his family, yelling at the soldiers to shoot at him,” said one 20-year-old local. And they did, making him one of at least six people murdered in the Kanbalu Township village that day.

The roughly 100 soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee militiamen who raided Pay Lel started shooting heavy and light weapons as soon as they entered the village at around 6am. 

Thein Zaw’s wife, Than Nwe, was hiding in a house in the southern part of the village with their 27-year-old son Chan Nyein Aung and 22-year-old daughter Phoo Phoo. Another man named Chit Kaung was hiding with them. 

All four were killed when an explosive munition hit the house, both locals said. The sixth person who died was a child in ninth grade named Hein Ko Oo, who was also shot, they added.

The 20-year-old survivor said the final death toll from the raid could be higher, as the junta’s forces are still occupying the village and it has not been possible to account for everyone who is missing. 

He had heard reports that the soldiers dug holes using bulldozers and buried the dead in the southern part of the village. “I heard that the military had been picking up bodies here and there and burying them. We still haven’t identified the remaining victims,” he said.

The second local said that the junta’s forces were still stationed in the village as of Sunday afternoon and had been breaking into houses and looting them.  

“They were stealing valuable items like refrigerators and televisions yesterday,” he said on Sunday. “They also took eight motorcycles this morning, I heard.” 

Many of the female villagers were now staying in the local monastery while most male villagers have fled, he added. “Some villagers are trapped inside while some managed to escape. Some are missing,” he said.

Pay Lel has a population of around 1,000 people across 300 households. It is unclear how many people are now displaced.

While Kanbalu has seen widespread violence amid the armed uprising against the junta since last year’s coup, the two local sources said this was the first time Pay Lel has been raided by the military. 

There are no People’s Defence Force fighters or other anti-junta armed groups operating in the village, they added.   

Junta officials could not be reached for comment. 

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