Sagaing village under siege as Myanmar military lashes out after attack

A village in Sagaing Region’s Wetlet Township has been under a state of siege since local resistance forces attacked a police station there on Sunday, according to local residents.

Shein Ma Kar, located on the western bank of the Ayeyarwady River about 20km southeast of the town of Wetlet, has been completely sealed off since Sunday’s attack by the Shwebo People’s Defence Force (PDF), a resident of another village in the area told Myanmar Now on Monday.

“The military has seized control of Shein Ma Kar and is not letting anyone leave or enter the village. We can hear gunshots every hour,” said a man from Thit Seint Gyi, a village located about 15km north of Shein Ma Kar.

The Shwebo PDF launched the attack on the village’s police station at around 2pm on Sunday, according to one of the group’s battalion commanders.

About three hours later, military helicopters arrived, forcing the group to retreat, said the commander, who is also a resident of Shein Ma Kar.

Four junta soldiers, including a captain, were killed in the initial attack, while three resistance fighters were injured in the ensuing battle, he added.

According to local sources, the attack came after around 30 soldiers stationed at the police station in Shein Ma Kar torched 46 homes in the area earlier in the day.

By Monday morning, there were reports that junta columns appeared to be moving towards Shein Ma Kar from both the east and the west.

One column of around 70 troops had arrived in Mway Ta Laing, a village in neighbouring Madaya Township, that morning, while another of around 100 troops was seen arriving in the town of Wetlet at around the same time, local sources said.

Thousands of people from Shein Ma Kar and other villages in the area, including Ywar Thit, Nga Reh, and Tut, were said to be seeking shelter on the banks of the Ayeyarwady River, while others were preparing to flee.

“We’re very worried, as the road to Shein Ma Kar from Wetlet is near our village. We are getting ready to go into hiding now,” said the Thit Seint Gyi villager, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Meanwhile, the commander of another Shwebo PDF battalion said the group was struggling to continue its efforts to resist the regime forces due to a lack of weapons.

“We have just one rifle for every three members. The rest of us have to use handmade hunting guns and gunpowder. It’s really difficult to keep fighting,” he said.

He added that the group had hoped to receive more weapons from the shadow National Unity Government (NUG), which is leading the resistance movement.

“I don’t care if we starve, but we need more guns. We want to protect the civilians with our lives. So we’d like to ask the NUG to provide us with guns, at the very least,” he said.

Residents of Chaung Mee To inspect the ruins of their village after an attack by regime forces on June 9 (Wetlet PDF)

The latest fighting comes days after the commander of Shwebo PDF Battalion 23 was killed in an ambush near the village of Chaung Mee To in eastern Wetlet Township along with two other members of his unit, the group said in a statement released on Saturday.

Sixty-year-old battalion commander Thanmani died while leading troops under his command to a battle in support of an allied group, the GZ Special Task Force, whose base had come under attack.

“We underestimated the enemy and ran straight into them,” said a Shwebo PDF member.

An elderly resident of Chaung Mee To who was unable to flee as regime forces raided the village was also killed, according to local sources.

Residents said that only around 20 houses are still standing in the village of 150 households after the raid.

“There’s nothing left to go back to. The PDF groups raised some funds to buy food for us. They didn’t have much to give, but we know they did their best,” said one local man. 

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