Military occupies Shwebo Township village, shoots at locals who try to return

Junta troops stationed in Palaing village in Sagaing Region’s Shwebo Township have been shooting at displaced villagers attempting to return to their homes, locals said.

Some 5,000 residents fled 1,000-household Palaing and the neighbouring villages of Seikkhun and Tettu after soldiers arrived in all three locations over the weekend.

“We can’t go back to the village no matter what. They’re shooting at everyone they see. They’re also constantly patrolling around the village in two teams,” a Palaing villager who sought refuge in a nearby forest told Myanmar Now on Tuesday.  

Before arriving in Palaing, the troops shot and killed four civilians who were carrying out nightly watch duties in Seikkhun on Saturday night. 

A Seikkhun resident said that he overheard what sounded like an execution of the young men. 

“I think the guys just ran into them during their shift. We could hear the sound of [the soldiers] telling them to lie on the ground, and then the gunshots,” the resident said.

The victims were Thet Soe, Htay Hlaing Win, Aung Paing Htwe and Aung Hein Kyaw.

Post-mortem photographs of the victims shared on social media indicated that they were shot in the head at close range; the skulls of two of the men were completely shattered.

In a video shared on social media, a uniformed soldier was seen cursing near their bodies. 

The military council has not released a statement on the incident.

The military engaged in a brief clash with the People’s Defence Force (PDF) already on guard near Palaing when they arrived on Sunday morning, before the PDF was forced to retreat.

“We didn’t think the military vehicles would come to Palaing. We thought they were heading towards Tettu village, but we stood guard at the gate anyway,” a Palaing resident said. “The guys didn’t even get to do anything. [The military] just started shelling and they had to flee. I heard one of [PDF soldiers’] legs was injured.”

“The whole village had to flee. Can you believe this? We still don’t dare to go back into the village,” he said. 

The troops then stationed themselves in Palaing’s monastery, which they were still occupying at the time of reporting.

The villagers expressed concern about being pursued by the military to makeshift displaced persons’ camps like those who fled Depayin Township’s Satpyar Kyin village earlier this month. 

On July 2, the junta’s forces raided Satpyar Kyin, which was known for its strong PDF presence. A series of battles followed, and soldiers pursued civilians who had fled, shooting. 

Some 26 PDF members were killed and more than 50 injured. 

Those who fled Palaing on Sunday had to leave behind their crops and their livestock, they said. 

“Since the rainy season is ending, we need to start cultivating the paddy fields. We had to leave them all behind as we barely even made it out alive,” the Palaing villager said. 

A Seikkhun PDF member told Myanmar Now that justice would be served for the murder of the four civilians on patrol on Saturday night.

“I got so depressed when I heard in the morning that all four of them were dead. It’s a great loss, but we’re not going to back down. We hate them even more now, and we are going to push ourselves even harder,” he said of the junta.

“The only way is forward. We have to prepare for the fight. It’s certain that they have more firepower than us, but we have to keep going no matter what. No matter how much we have to lose, we have to keep revolting until we get what we are fighting for.”

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