Regime policemen set fire to Kinma—a village in Magwe Region’s Pauk Township—on Tuesday, destroying nearly 80 percent of its houses, according to residents.
The remains of two burned bodies believed to belong to an elderly husband and wife—Mya Maung, 85, and Kyi Hmein, 83—were discovered by the villagers on Wednesday. While other residents—including their eight children—fled, the couple had stayed behind and hid in their home.
“The old man was in really poor health. He couldn’t even walk anymore. All of his children were fleeing so none of them could save him from the fire. I think the old woman chose not to run and to die with her husband,” a neighbour of the couple told Myanmar Now.
Kinma’s residents left their homes on Tuesday in anticipation of the raid by regime soldiers, leaving food and water for five elderly people who were unable to run with them, a Pauk Township local said. They had planned to return to check on them the following day.
Once the fire started to engulf the village, residents hiding nearby were able to return and save three of the elders, but not Mya Maung and Kyi Hmein, a local said.
Kinma is home to some 1,000 residents and is 18 miles from Pauk, a town in central Magwe Region bordering Chin State. By Wednesday morning, images posted on social media by Pauk locals indicated that much of the village had been burnt down.
One of the residents who returned to the village on Wednesday told Myanmar Now that he had witnessed Mya Maung and Kyi Hmein’s son crying amidst the ashes of his parents’ home.
He added that only around 50 houses—out of some 230—were still intact.
Conflict in the area intensified after June 12, when gunmen on motorbikes shot at the house of the junta-allied administrator of Deedotekwin village, more than 12 miles from Kinma.
One of the motorcycles broke down and was left behind in Deedotekwin by the gunmen. The regime authorities traced the bike’s licence plate to Kinma, according to a local. Policemen and plainclothes soldiers then went to the village in search of the suspect.
Kinma’s villagers fled when they got word of the junta’s armed forces’ arrival. Seeing no one in the village, the troops then set fire to the village, said the Pauk resident.
Be Tu, a man from Pauk who had contact with the civilian resistance in Kinma, said that gunfire was exchanged between local fighters and the regime troops outside of the village as they arrived in the area on Tuesday.
He said that the shootout ended at around 4pm, and estimated that up to 15 junta soldiers were killed and one local was injured. Myanmar Now was not able to independently verify the number of casualties.
After the clash, around five policemen set fire to Kinma, starting with a house near the village school. Dozens more policemen then set fire to the other residences, according to a resident in hiding who witnessed the community burning.
“The fire did not spread from the first house. They set nearly every house on fire—in the middle, west and north of the village,” U Kin, another Kinma resident, explained on Wednesday. “What I saw at the village today were just mounds of ashes.”
Editor’s Note: This article was updated on the evening of June 16 to include further details concerning the fire and the two victims killed in the attack.