Myanmar army launches week-long arson attack on Sagaing Region village

After facing a fierce attack by local resistance forces, the military retaliates with airstrikes and by torching an estimated hundreds of homes in Kalay Township

Junta troops active in southern Kalay Township in Sagaing Region have been systematically burning homes in the village of Thar Si for one week, following a brutal battle with resistance forces in the area. 

Since August 15, soldiers have been setting fire to an unconfirmed number of Thar Si’s 1,300 residences, local sources told Myanmar Now on Monday. For three hours that morning, the troops had reportedly used fuel as an accelerant as they appeared to target larger homes. 

Until the Myanmar army leaves the area, locals—who have fled to neighbouring communities—say that they cannot assess the full extent of the damage to the village, which is more than two miles south of Kalay town. 

However, one man from Thar Si estimated that up to 300 homes had been lost. 

“This count reflects the houses gutted by the flames up until now, but the fire has already spread throughout the village,” he said. “The burning spree persists.”

One civilian was reportedly killed, locals said, but Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the claim. 

Thar Si, located south of Kalay town, is seen burning on the morning of August 21 (Supplied)

A joint force of soldiers and military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia members from the town faced a fierce attack by local resistance groups near Thar Si on August 15, and retaliated with airstrikes before launching the arson campaign. 

Yati Ohn, the official in charge of a mobile medical team based in the area and supporting victims of the regime, told Myanmar Now that during the initial clash one week ago, the military fired weapons from the air that caused resistance fighters to experience a numbness in their limbs and difficulty breathing. 

Around 10 people were still being treated for their symptoms, he said. 

After seeing footage of the scene following the blast, Cpt Khant Ko, who once worked in the military’s defence factories and defected after Myanmar’s 2021 coup, speculated that the bomb used was not a chemical weapon, despite local suspicions otherwise. 

In early August, a letter from a monk in Kalay circulated on social media asking for a military intervention to assist 12 communities—including those south of the town—that were known pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee strongholds and reportedly facing food shortages due to resistance blockades. 

Some Kalay Township residents have speculated that army units positioned around Thar Si then launched a military operation to support other area villages dominated by the allied militia. 

“They are targeting Thar Si because they thought that they could only go through the southern part [of Kalay] only once this village had been reduced to ashes,” the man from Thar Si said. 

Kalay Township borders Chin State, where anti-junta resistance forces exercise significant territorial control. 

Since the military coup, the junta has expanded its operations across the country, fighting on several frontlines against anti-regime guerrilla forces and frequently deploying airstrikes and arson campaigns in civilian communities in resistance strongholds. 

According to monitoring and documentation group Data for Myanmar, 74,874 houses have been destroyed by the military as of the end of July, with two-thirds of the total devastation having been perpetrated in Sagaing Region. 

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