Ten thousand villagers in Magwe forced into hiding as soldiers loot their homes

More than 10,000 villagers from five communities in Magwe region’s Gangaw township have fled their homes since March 30, seeking refuge from the junta’s armed forces in the forests. 

Following peaceful protests by locals, troops began violent crackdowns in the Gangaw area. Since mid-March, this involved raids on homes, allegedly to search for weapons and any tools that could later be used to resist the regime. 

However, residents reported that the soldiers also stole money, mobile phones and jewelry from their houses. 

It started with military trucks roaming the streets of Gangaw town, targeting homes where the electricity had been turned off, and confiscating anything of value, a resident told Myanmar Now.

It was not until late March that villagers in the surrounding area began resisting the armed forces’ searches by shooting locally-made hunting rifles in an attempt to keep soldiers out. 

On March 30, following reports of a violent regime crackdown on protesters in the Sagaing town of Kalay to the north, residents of Gangaw took to the streets to oppose the junta’s forces.

That day, four locals were shot dead.

One of those killed by the armed forces that day was not part of the resistance, but hunting for wild boar outside the village of Hnan Khar: Zaw Zaw Myint, 42, also known as Phoe Thar Lay.

A confrontation then broke out between the Hnan Khar villagers and the junta’s soldiers after the soldiers barred them from retrieving his body. 

Hnan Khar’s villagers– as well as those in other communities in Gangaw township– began defending themselves against the troops with makeshift weapons, including the hunting rifles. The soldiers responded by firing heavy explosives and machine guns at them, according to one resident. 

Also killed by the armed forces 33-year-old Zaw Lin, 49-year-old Win Lwin, and 23-year-old Min Maw Tun. Further information surrounding their deaths was not available at the time of reporting. 

Most of the remaining residents from the Gangaw villages of Hnan Khar, South Khim Yam, North Khim Yam, Thalin and Hanthawaddy then fled to the forests, where they remained at the time of reporting. 

“There is nothing left in the village. Only dogs and chickens will still be there,” a villager who had left Thalin told Myanmar Now, adding that the community’s 1,000 residents were staying in tents.   

Hnan Khar villagers said that in their absence, their remaining belongings had been looted by the military. 

Only around 30 people out of 4,000 stayed behind, a villager displaced from the community said. 

“They took everything, even knives and onion slicers,” the individual told Myanmar Now. “In beer shops, they not only drank the beer [without paying] but also took the beer away with them.” 

He added that homes which had posters for the National League for Democracy party or pictures of ousted State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi were singled out and “destroyed.” 

Information officials for the military council could not be reached for comment. 


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