‘Ogre Column’ kills three more PDF fighters in southern Sagaing

Content warning: This article contains pictures and detailed descriptions of killings, which may be upsetting to some readers.

Three members of the Sagaing District chapter of the People’s Defence Force (PDF), including a deputy commander, were killed in the village of Swea Lwe Oh in Myaung Township on Thursday.

Two sources who were involved in retrieving the victims’ bodies told Myanmar Now that one of them—that of Sin Yaing, the deputy commander of the Sagaing District PDF’s Battalion 1—had been beheaded.

They added that his headless body was recovered on Thursday afternoon, before the junta troops responsible for the killings had left the area at around 3am on Friday.

Sin Yaing’s head and the other two bodies were discovered on Friday morning, the sources said. 

According to Nway Oo, the leader of the Civilian Defence and Security Organisation of Myaung (CDSOM), a coalition of the township’s resistance groups, Sin Yaing’s head also showed signs of torture.

“The ears were cut off and the eyes were gouged out,” he said.

The killings were carried out by the notorious “Ogre Column” of junta soldiers from Meiktila-based Light Infantry Division (LID) 99, which raided Swea Lwe Oh early Thursday morning, shortly before overrunning the Sagaing District PDF Battalion 1 base camp, located just east of the village.

According to Yakkha, the Battalion 1 commander, Sin Yaing was captured while resisting the regime soldiers in Swea Lwe Oh, which is located about 8km from the town of Myaung.

“Our priority was to get out of there safely, so we ordered all of our troops and squadron commanders to retreat. However, Sin Yaing and another member of our group stayed behind to fight,” he said, adding that the other individual was shot in the leg but managed to escape.

He added that Sin Yaing’s efforts to slow down the column of more than 80 fully armed junta troops had enabled the rest of the battalion to retreat without suffering major losses.

Sin Yaing (Supplied)

However, he said that the other two victims, who were both 19 years old, were captured after being separated from their group.

“They became lost while we were retreating from the camp. We found their bodies only this morning,” said Yakkha.

The resistance forces made repeated attempts to recover Sin Yaing’s body, according to Lu Lin, the leader of another group active in the area called the Myinmu Urban Revolution Team.

“We weren’t able to get his body on the first attempt because they fired on us when we tried. But then we made up our minds to go in there again and succeeded the second time,” he said, speaking to Myanmar Now late Thursday.

The Ogre Column has been raiding villages in Myaung Township since March 12, following a series of deadly attacks in Myinmu and Sagaing townships earlier in the month. 

Sin Yaing is the only person known to have been beheaded by the column in Myaung Township so far.

The dismemberment of its victims has been a hallmark of the column since it was transported to the village of Ma Le Thar in Ayadaw Township by helicopter on February 24.

Its first victims were five resistance fighters captured and killed in Myinmu Township in the last week of February. Four of them—all of them boys in their teens—were beheaded, while the fifth was cut into pieces.

By March 1, the column had reached Tar Taing, a village in Sagaing Township, where it killed 17 people. One victim, a local resistance leader named Kyaw Zaw, was later found disembowelled and with his head, legs and arms cut off.

None of the other victims, who included three women, were members of any anti-regime group, according to locals who spoke to Myanmar Now.

After the massacre in Tar Taing, 10 more mutilated bodies were found in and around Lakkapin, a village in Myinmu Township that the column had occupied from March 5 to 7. Most of the victims were identified as displaced villagers.

When the troops left Lakkapin on March 7, they took several prisoners with them, including the Buddhist monk Sayadaw Agga Wuntha, a prominent opponent of the regime. He and four others detained at the same time were last seen on March 12 as the column marched towards Myaung Township.

Since entering Myaung Township, the column has continued its killing spree, but has also faced significant losses in attacks by resistance forces.

On March 14, it shot and killed a man in his 70s near the village of Min Tan, in eastern Myaung Township. Five days later, it killed another elderly man while carrying out raids on villages near the southern edge of the township.

During this same period, however, it was ambushed twice, on March 15 and 16, resulting in the loss of 17 junta soldiers, according to the CDSOM.

It was attacked again on March 21, this time by 11 allied defence teams that came at it from different directions between the villages of Myit Sone, Pauk Chaung and Gaung Kwe.

A total of 19 junta troops, including a lieutenant colonel, were killed in that assault, the CDSOM reported on March 23.

Another attack between the villages of Let Yet Ma and Kya Pin Hla on March 24 left seven junta dead, but also resulted in the loss of five resistance fighters, according to the group.

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