Residents of small farm communities in Mandalay Region’s Taungtha Township have been ordered to leave as part of the regime’s counterinsurgency operations.
According to an officer of the anti-junta Taungtha People’s Movement Committee, the push to empty small clusters of farms in the area began more than a month ago.
“They called for a meeting with locals and started driving people out of their homes on August 20,” said the officer, adding that the military also threatened to shoot dead anyone who stayed behind.
Taungtha has more than 250 villages, but also many other small farm communities that are not officially registered. The residents of many of these communities are now sheltering in schools and abandoned houses, according to the officer.
Despite the order to leave, however, some people have stayed behind to keep an eye on their properties, as some homes ransacked by soldiers are also being looted by thieves, he added.
“The heads of some families are still on their farms, hiding in the bushes so they can watch over their carts, animals and other things,” said the resistance committee officer.
People living in the area told Myanmar Now that there were at least three cases of residents being beaten and verbally abused by soldiers in the month after the order was issued.
The incidents occurred near the villages of Za Yat Gyi, Thantan, and Western Ta Dar, the sources said. Eight houses were also reportedly torched.
According to the resistance committee officer, the junta forces were clearing the small farming communities to prevent them being “infiltrated” by members of the anti-regime People’s Defence Force. Several hundred households have been affected by the measure.
Villages dominated by the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia have not been subjected to the same treatment, locals said.
Taungtha has traditionally been regarded as a pro-military stronghold. It was the birthplace of Aung Thaung, a top general under previous regimes. His son, Admiral Moe Aung, was appointed commander-in-chief of the Navy by Min Aung Hlaing, who heads the current junta.
At least 90 villages in the township have formed Pyu Saw Htee units, according to local defence groups. Each village has reportedly been issued five firearms.
Myanmar Now attempted to reach Thein Htay, the junta-appointed commerce minister for Mandalay Region and the regime’s spokesperson in the region, for comment, but all calls went unanswered.