Military retaliates against civilians as resistance forces strike junta supply lines in upper Myanmar

Clashes between the Myanmar army and guerrilla forces in Sagaing preceded the razing of a village by junta forces in the region’s southern Khin-U Township and a significant blow by the resistance to military columns moving through the northern township of Katha. 

Junta troops have been sending supplies and reinforcements through Sagaing—a known resistance stronghold—to their forces in neighbouring Kachin State both overland and along the Irrawaddy River, but are frequently intercepted by defence forces.

The military has simultaneously been carrying out daily assaults on villages in the region amid an internet blackout imposed by the military council in early March. 

‘Nothing left, just ashes’ 

On Tuesday, six miles east of Khin-U town, a local defence force attacked one such military truck headed north along the road connecting the Sagaing city of Shwebo with the Kachin capital of Myitkyina. Four more trucks reportedly soon arrived at the scene, resulting in a “brief clash on the road,” according to a member of the resistance group. 

After the defence force withdrew from the area, Myanmar army soldiers reportedly fired some 20 artillery shells from their position on the road into the nearby village of Tamoke, forcing all 300 residents to flee. 

A member of the guerrilla group involved in the roadside clash noted that Tamoke did not even have its own local defence force, and he did not know why the military had attacked the village. 

He said that it appeared that the troops had systematically set fire to the deserted homes, rice stores, cars and motorcycles. 

“The fire did not spread on its own. They torched one house after another,” the defence force member said.

They also stole a 12-wheel truck and slaughtered cows, goats and a pig, he told Myanmar Now. 

A cow from Tamoke village killed by the military is seen on the morning of March 16 (Supplied)

When the villagers returned on Wednesday morning, they said the entire 100-household community had been burnt down, with just two homes, a school and a monastery still standing. 

“There was nothing left, just ashes,” a Tamoke resident said.

The military has torched a total of 192 homes and killed 18 civilians in five villages in Khin-U in the two weeks since the internet was cut off, according to defence forces in the township. 

Supply route attack

Two military boats travelling up the Irrawaddy River presumably to Kachin State were attacked with handmade rocket launchers by the Katha People’s Defence Force (PDF) on Monday near Panthay village, according to a statement by the resistance group. 

The PDF claimed that one of the vessels was destroyed and dozens of soldiers killed, while the second boat continued upstream. 

The map shows the five locations near the town of Katha, where junta forces were ambushed on 15 March and 16 March (Myanmar Now)

Injured soldiers were reportedly brought to the Katha hospital and equipment salvaged from the boat transported to the Katha-based Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 309. Surviving troops from the boats joined soldiers from the LIB, forming a 100-man military column which continued on foot northward along the western bank of the Irrawaddy.

Over the course of their 20-mile trek on Tuesday and Wednesday, the soldiers were ambushed in five locations by guerrilla fighters including the Katha PDF who repeatedly set explosives in their path. Some 15 junta troops are believed to have been killed, according to a local close to the PDF.  

The military boat that withstood the initial attack was seen anchored at a port in Moe Dar Lay village, the column’s destination and some 20 miles north of Katha town, on Wednesday. 

Nyein Swe contributed to this report.

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