A dozen bodies were discovered near a village in Sagaing Region’s Kani Township on Friday, offering further evidence of atrocity killings by regime forces operating in the area.
The 12 bodies, including one of a 14-year-old boy, were found in a wooded area near the village of Taung Pauk on the afternoon of July 30, local sources said.
Days earlier, military forces entered Taung Pauk and other nearby villages and began arresting male residents suspected of involvement in the anti-coup resistance movement.
A search party was later formed to locate the detained villagers, all of whom appear to have been tortured and murdered on the day of their arrest.
“The bodies were very badly bruised. They had also started to decompose, to the point that you couldn’t pick them up. They were killed on the 26th or 27th, so that was understandable,” said a local activist who spoke to members of the search party.
Some of the bodies had been kept under a burned hut and were covered by a sheet, he added.
All 12 of the victims have been identified as villagers who were in the custody of the military at the time of their death.
Two were from the village of Kho Twin and seven—including the 14-year-old—were from Thayet Taw, another village in the area. The other three were residents of the town of Kani who were staying with relatives in Thayet Taw.
None of the bodies have been taken away for burial because the military is still active in the area, local residents told Myanmar Now.
This is the third time in less than a month that bodies have been found dumped near villages in Kani Township. A total of at least 40 have been discovered so far, most of them showing signs of torture.
On July 11 and 12, the bodies of 15 people were found scattered in a forest near Yin, a village that had been raided along with several others the day before.
At least 13 more bodies were discovered last week near the village of Zee Pin Twin following clashes between the military and the local People’s Defence Force (PDF).
The mass killings appear to be aimed at weakening support for the resistance movement, according to PDF fighters who insist that the regime’s brutal tactics are backfiring.
“People are joining us now to avenge their dead loved ones, even if they didn’t want to fight before. The military’s attempt to terrify people into submission doesn’t work anymore,” said one PDF member who didn’t want to be named.
Meanwhile, thousands of villagers have been displaced since the second week of July as clashes in Kani continue.
Most have been forced to seek refuge in forested areas due to fears that crowding into camps or other villages could lead to dangerous levels of exposure to Covid-19 amid a recent surge of the disease.
“We can’t make camps because of the pandemic. But we don’t have suitable shelter in the forest, which we need because it has been raining a lot. Aside from Covid-19, seasonal flu has been pretty bad,” said one displaced villager.