Kanbalu villagers hide in small groups amid fears of junta airstrikes

Civilians forced to flee an ongoing regime offensive near the site of deadly airstrikes carried out in Sagaing Region’s Kanbalu Township two weeks ago say they continue to live in fear of another aerial assault.

“We’ve had to separate into small groups because we are afraid of the fighter jets. We don’t dare stay together in one place anymore. We all live in the jungle now,” said one displaced woman.

Residents of at least a dozen villages near Pa Zi Gyi, the target of a deadly assault on April 11, have fled their homes as the military continues its attacks in the area.

On Tuesday, a column of around 100 junta troops torched at least 50 houses in Chaung Thar, a village located just north of Pa Zi Gyi, according to a member of a local defence team.

“They started the fires at around 7:30am and then left after breaking into a number of houses and even the monastery, taking everything they wanted,” he said.

The junta column, which crossed the Ayeyarwady River into Kanbalu Township on April 18, seized control of Pa Zi Gi last week as part of the military’s effort to retake an area that has become a resistance stronghold.

The column reportedly divided into three groups and fired on Chaung Thar with light and heavy weapons the night before it entered the village and began setting fires.

There were no casualties from the attack because residents had already fled, the defence team member told Myanmar Now.

There have also been reports that another column of around 100 junta troops from Tank Battalion 6006, based in the town of Kanbalu, has been stationed in the village of Myay Mun, about 15km west of Pa Zi Gyi, since Tuesday.

Myanmar’s military admitted to carrying out the airstrikes on Pa Zi Gyi, but claimed that the attack was justified because of the alleged presence of resistance forces.

However, the regime has yet to acknowledge that at least 40 of the victims of the assault—the deadliest since the junta seized power more than two years ago—were children.

More than 160 people were killed in the attack, which received widespread international condemnation.

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