Military, resistance forces trade accusations over civilian deaths in Ayadaw

Myanmar’s military and local resistance forces have accused each other of killing at least seven civilians in a village in Sagaing Region’s Ayadaw Township last week.

The incident occurred last Friday, when an alliance of anti-regime groups carried out an attack on Tha Le Bar, a village that has been occupied by junta troops and members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia for more than a year.

The village of around 500 households is located on the western bank of the Muu River, about 20km southeast of the town of Ayadaw. According to locals, it is used by Pyu Saw Htee forces as a staging ground for raids on other villages in the area.

The civilian casualties of the attack died when they ran into landmines laid by regime forces to secure the village, an officer of a local defence team told Myanmar Now.

“They heard gunfire from the battle and fled towards the school to hide behind it. But when they did, they ran into a minefield and were all killed on the spot,” said the officer, citing village residents.

The victims were identified as Mont Lone, 13; Lwin Mar Oo, 30; Zaw Win Ko, 32, and his wife, also 32; and married couple Lwin Mar Aye, 37, and Galone, 30, and their infant daughter, who was just a few months old.

However, in a statement released on Saturday, the regime—which rarely acknowledges civilian casualties—claimed that nine people were killed in Tha Le Bar and two more were injured after being shot by resistance forces. It said the victims included five men, three women, and a monk.

Displaced villagers from Khin-U Township in Sagaing Region are seen in November 2022 (Moe Oo/Myanmar Now)

According to the commander of Sagaing District People’s Defence Force (PDF) Battalion 1, one of the groups involved in the attack, the target was regime forces stationed inside the village school.

“We started firing long-range weapons at them and closed in on the village after 5pm, after which we attacked their base with light weapons. Fighting ended at around 11:15pm,” he said.

In its statement, the junta also claimed that the resistance forces destroyed 80 houses in the attack. However, according to the local defence team officer, junta troops were also responsible for the loss of property.

“They fired around 10 artillery shells after we started our raid on their base and the fires spread with the wind. What made it worse was that they fired in every direction because we were coming at them from three sides,” he said.

He added that the resistance forces took sick and elderly villagers away from the area for their own safety after the attack. However, some residents reportedly fled to Sapatwin, a neighbouring village also occupied by Pyu Saw Htee forces.

There were also reports of junta casualties, but no confirmed figures were available at the time of reporting.

According to residents, around 60 Pyu Saw Htee members were sent to Tha Le Bar as reinforcements a day after the attack.

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