Military continues arson campaign throughout central Myanmar

During the first week in April, the Myanmar army set fire to and destroyed hundreds of homes in eight townships across Magway, Mandalay and Sagaing regions, according to local sources across the three regions. 

The rampage across central Myanmar took place from April 2-7, they said, but attacks on communities in the region have been occurring daily for months. 

As of April 1, a total of nearly 8,000 civilian homes have been destroyed by the junta’s forces nationwide in the 14 months since the February 2021 coup, according to Data for Myanmar, which is compiling information on military raids. Most of these homes have been in Magway and Sagaing, followed by neighbouring Chin State. 

The military council denies responsibility for the arson, and has repeatedly blamed anti-junta resistance forces for perpetrating the crimes. 

Magway Region

Three residents of Magway’s Pakokku District confirmed to Myanmar Now that five villages in total, including one Pakkoku Township, as well as one each in Seikphyu and Yesagyo and two in Pauk, were terrorised by the junta’s forces during the period in question. 

In Pakokku Township, the community of Myit Phyar was targeted, they said.

“First, the military dropped bombs from aircrafts before the column on the ground fired heavy artillery shells at the village,” one of the men explained. “[Myit Phyar] was already empty, so they entered the village and torched the houses, one after another.”

Another local from Myit Phyar speculated that the attacks were related to the reported escape of a resistance fighter from the People’s Defence Force (PDF) who had been captured by junta troops in the area. 

“They came to our village in three military trucks to look for the missing PDF member and started torching our village for no reason at all,” he told Myanmar Now. 

The photos and videos seen by Myanmar Now indicate that the affected houses were completely reduced to ashes, with only remnants of roofing and cement left behind.  

The number of civilians displaced by the assaults in Pakokku District was not known at the time of reporting. 

Mandalay Region

A junta convoy of some 13 trucks attacked the village of Kin in Mandalay’s Madaya Township on April 7, torching some five houses, a resident of the community told Myanmar Now. 

An officer in the township’s anti-junta defence force claimed that members of the Pyu Saw Htee militia network accompanied the soldiers and instructed them regarding which homes to burn. 

A house in Kin village that was destroyed by the military and is seen on April 9 (Supplied)

“The soldiers didn’t even know which house belonged to whom. The Pyu Saw Htee members pointed at the houses, the owners of which were either the people they didn’t like or their business rivals,” he said. “Only then did the soldiers start torching the houses.”

At the time of the April 7 raid on Kin, locals said that some 20 villagers were taken and interrogated by junta troops. Among them were Kyaw Soe, 50, and Yarzar Min, 29, whose bodies were reportedly found on Monday inside the burned remains of one of the five torched homes.

The military column left the village on the evening of April 8, with residents assuming that the two missing men had been taken hostage by the exiting soldiers. Their bodies were discovered in the burned home three days later. 

“The homeowners couldn’t come back to the village, so we couldn’t do anything for their houses. We just had to leave them as they were. The locals started looking around as foul smells started coming out of that house,” a resident of Kin said, explaining how the bodies of the two slain men were discovered. 

The military had reportedly come to Kin to investigate the death of a novice monk known as Soe, who was shot dead earlier this month by unidentified forces after he was accused of being a military informant.  

Soon after, another monk from the village, Pyinar Wuntha, who ran a monastic school in Kin, died in junta custody within one day of his arrest on April 3. His body was turned over to the Madaya morgue the following morning. 

The military has killed at least 20 people in Madaya Township in the 14 months since the February 2021 coup, the resident who spoke to Myanmar Now said. 

Myanmar Now is unable to independently verify the reports of raids, interrogation and murder in Kin village. 

Sagaing Region

Junta troops burned some 67 homes in the village of Shauk Khar in Sagaing’s Ayadaw Township following a clash between the Myanmar army and local defence forces in the area last week, a resident of Shauk Khar said. 

“The resistance forces only shot back in order to provide cover and buy time for the villagers to escape,” he explained, recalling the battle. “But the military started firing heavy artillery shells shortly after that, forcing the defence forces to withdraw. Then, the military started torching the village.”

He said that a 25-year-old man was killed and a 60-year-old woman were injured during the fighting. Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the claim. 

Ultimately, the junta troops withdrew when defence forces started attacking them with drones as they looted and destroyed homes in Shauk Khar, he said. 

In Sagaing’s Wetlet Township, soldiers reportedly set fire to and destroyed almost the entire 1,000-household village of Ywar Nang on April 7. 

Ngar Tin Gyi village in Khin-U, which is home to nearly 600 households, is said to have faced a similar fate four days earlier.

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