Myanmar army, allied militia linked to more civilian murders and acts of arson in Sagaing

Junta troops accompanied by members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia were linked to the murders of up at least seven people this week in raids on villages in two Sagaing Region townships where nearly 200 homes were torched. 

According to members of local People’s Defence Force (PDF) chapters, Myanmar army soldiers shot and killed two men taken as hostages from Kyoet Kan village in Khin-U Township on June 11. 

The troops and militia members belonged to a convoy travelling from Shwebo that was attacked with explosives by resistance forces just outside of Kyoet Kan that evening; they responded by firing artillery at the village, a member of the Naga Nyi Naung guerrilla group active in the area told Myanmar Now.

“The junta forces that fired shells at the village were the ones that killed the victims,” he said. 

Locals and members of defence forces found and cremated the bodies of the two men the following day after the troops had left. The victims were believed to be in their 20s and 50s, respectively, but at the time of reporting, it was not known from which village they were abducted or how long they had been held by the military before they were killed. 

Bodies of the two Kyoet Kan villagers killed by junta forces on June 11 (Supplied)

Junta forces in the area had also carried out an arson attack on a neighbouring village—Kan Thit—one day earlier, burning some 50 homes. 

Resistance fighters assumed that the convoy in question had been sent to Kyoet Kan from the Military Advanced Training Depot No. 8, some six miles away, in order to act as reinforcements for another column that was already torching the village, destroying some 37 homes. 

Both military units were targeted in makeshift bomb attacks by the guerrilla groups that reportedly caused some 18 junta casualties, but Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the claim.  

“The dead soldiers were also burned along with the houses that were torched,” the member of Naga Nyi Naung said. 

More than 100 miles southwest of Khin-U in Chaung-U Township, PDF members found the burned bodies of six people in the ashes of Taw Kyaung Lay village this week, five of whom are believed to be civilians and one reportedly a junta soldier.

Around 100 of the community’s 1,000 homes were destroyed during a three-day occupation by Myanmar army troops and Pyu Saw Htee members that began on June 12. 

Chaung-U PDF spokesperson Jack told Myanmar Now that the junta soldiers had come to the area after travelling along the Chindwin River on two ferries, and that the Pyu Saw Htee were from the village of Kan Gyi Kone, four miles south of Taw Chaung Lay. 

The Chaung-U PDF claimed the militia members in question were linked to the murder of two PDF members and four civilians in early June. 

Although the majority of Taw Chaung Lay’s residents fled as the troops arrived to heavy artillery fire, some 50 locals, including elderly people, were detained as the village was looted over the next two days. 

The occupying forces set fire to the community on Tuesday at 4am before departing. 

A shift in the wind stopped the entirety of Taw Chaung Lay from burning down and limited the destruction to the 100 southernmost homes, Jack of the Chaung-U PDF explained.

It marked the fourth arson attack on the village since the coup in early 2021—some 30 homes were reportedly destroyed in previous fires set by the military. 

The six charred bodies were found by PDF members in the aftermath of the occupation. The identities of the victims could not be confirmed, particularly since some of the villagers detained earlier were released and had fled, making it more difficult to determine who remained captive, according to another Chaung-U PDF member.

“We had no means to identify most of the bodies because of the damage done by the fire,” he explained. “However, on one of the bodies, we found an open wound and some bandages and we are assuming that the body belonged to a junta soldier that was killed in an explosive attack.”

According to monitoring group Data for Myanmar, as of June 7 at least 18,886 houses had been destroyed by the military nationwide since the coup. 

Myanmar Now was unable to obtain comment from junta information officers regarding the reports of their troops burning and looting villages and killing civilians. 

The military council has not released a statement on the incidents in question and has repeatedly denied responsibility for acts of arson.

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