An army officer who was also the chairperson of the Wetlet Township chapter of the military council in Sagaing Region died while trying to clear an explosive device set up by local defence forces on December 29, according to multiple sources.
Cpt Moe Zaw Latt, 38, was killed while trying to clear a makeshift bomb planted by the local People’s Defence Force (PDF) on the Mandalay-Shwebo road, some 30 miles away from the centre of Wetlet Township.
“The military came to clear explosives near Saing Naing Gyi village on the morning of December 29. The explosives were set up in obvious places,” a member of the Wetlet PDF told Myanmar Now.
“The army officer tried to detonate it by shooting at it but it didn’t work, so he got close to it to diffuse it and that’s when the Thanmani Group detonated it,” he added, referring to another local guerrilla force fighting the junta alongside the PDF.
The PDF member explained that three other soldiers were injured in the blast, and that Moe Zaw Latt died of his wounds at the local hospital later that afternoon, an account which was echoed by another local source.
The shadow National Unity Government (NUG) released a statement confirming the death of the township military council chair, as did People Media—a Facebook page sharing statements released by the military.
In another statement published on December 31, the Wetlet PDF warned civilians to avoid travelling in the township due to frequent operations by both the military and the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee group. They said that the increased activity by the junta’s forces in the area followed three days of explosive attacks by the resistance beginning on December 28.
Another military column of 40 soldiers sent to the area to clear explosives on the same road were attacked on December 30, according to the Wetlet PDF.
“Thanmani’s group attacked the soldiers marching on foot in Shein Ma Kar [village]. The military fired around 15 random shots,” Naing Lin, a member of the Wetlet PDF’s second battalion, told Myanmar Now.
Naing Lin also revealed that the military had been searching the woods around the Wetlet township villages of Saing Naing Gyi, Saing Naing Lay and Shein Ma Kar after their troops were targeted in bomb attacks.
According to the NUG’s statement, a total of 286 clashes took place between the military and the PDF’s chapters across the country during a one-month period between November 7 and December 6, with the military suffering hundreds of casualties.
For months, the junta’s armed forces have been attacking communities throughout Sagaing from both the ground and air in an attempt to crush support for the region’s armed resistance movement.
Myanmar Now tried to contact the military council’s information officers regarding the death of Moe Zaw Latt, but all calls went unanswered.