People’s Defence Force (PDF) groups in Sagaing Region have come under growing pressure following a series of raids carried out by the military late last week.
Regime forces launched two attacks in the region on Thursday, including one on a weapons-manufacturing installation, and hit several other targets on Friday, various sources reported.
The first attack took place early Thursday morning in eastern Sagaing’s Htigyaing Township, where helicopters and fighter jets were used in an assault on a PDF position in Marathein, a village about five miles southwest of the town of Htigyaing.
A resident of the area reported seeing two helicopters carrying junta troops land near Marathein shortly before sunrise. They opened fire almost immediately, he said.
“They started firing mortar shells at around 6:30am. I think there’s a PDF base around there somewhere,” said the local, who did not want to be named.
A member of the Htigyaing PDF said that two fighter jets were also used in the attack, dropping bombs while troops on the ground fired at them.
Residents of Marathein and the nearby villages of Sintguseik, Tawma, Wah Bo Chaung, Patte, Kyee Kan Daunt and Htone Bo had already fled amid rumours that the military was planning to send reinforcements into the area.
The junta later reported that the operation targeted members of the PDF stationed at Marathein’s village school, but made no mention of the use of military aircraft.
According to the regime, a number of weapons, as well as tools used to make weapons, were seized in the raid. However, the PDF said that its members managed to escape after receiving information about the planned attack.
Weapons-making facility attacked
Helicopters were also deployed in an attack on a PDF base in southern Sagaing Region later the same day. The base, located between Pale and Yinmabin townships, was used to manufacture weapons.
A PDF spokesperson who goes by the name Phoenix told Myanmar Now that the raid took the group by surprise and resulted in the loss of 300m kyat ($186,000) worth of materials used to make mines, guns and missiles.
“We feel bad that so many things were lost, but we can deal with it, because we know that it won’t stop our operations,” he said.
While none of the PDF members were captured or injured in the raid, there were unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties.
Most residents of the nearby villages of Pu Htoe Thar, Yin Paung Taing, Ywar Naung, Poppa, Sinte, Myinthar Kone, Aye Kone and Mone Thwin have fled the area amid a heavy build-up of military forces.
Monastery under assault
On Friday, three helicopters were used in an attack on a monastery in Yin Kyay, a village in eastern Depayin Township, at around 1pm, according to local sources.
“They opened fire on the monastery from the helicopters. We still don’t have a list of casualties,” a local resident told Myanmar Now on Saturday.
A helicopter was also used to provide security for a column of around 100 troops marching towards the nearby village of Moke Si, he added.
A local defence force called the Garuda Army said that it had also come under fire from three helicopters in the area.
According to a local villager, two of the helicopters had come along the Muu River from different directions.
“One came from Magyitaw ward in Ye-u, and the other from Depayin,” he said, adding that shots were fired from both helicopters, forcing residents of six villages to flee their homes.
“No one was killed, because we told everyone to stay out of sight when the helicopters appeared,” he said.
On Saturday, regime-controlled newspapers reported that military forces had seized 20 motorcycles, one car, and several sacks of rice and onions from the monastery in Yin Kyay, where PDF fighters were allegedly hiding.
At a press conference on Friday, junta spokesperson Gen. Zaw Min Tun claimed that more than 1,400 PDF members had been arrested since the start of the armed resistance movement last year.