Thousands displaced by massive junta offensive in northwestern Sagaing

Weeks of junta air and ground attacks have forced thousands of people to flee their homes in more than a dozen villages in northwestern Sagaing Region’s Mawlaik Township, according to local sources.

The offensive targeting villages east of the Chindwin River began after a junta base in the village of Htaw Thar came under attack on the morning of May 12, the sources said.

Since then, regime forces based in the town of Mawlaik, which is located on the western bank of the river, have shelled the area continuously, while fighter jets have carried out multiple airstrikes.

According to a local man who spoke to Myanmar Now on Tuesday, clashes were still taking place amid a heavy military build-up in the area.

“The military’s attacks haven’t stopped yet. Battles were still breaking out yesterday, so no one dares to return home, as the junta columns are still around,” he said.

A column of around 200 troops based in Mawlaik has reportedly been joined by five truckloads of reinforcements sent from Kalay, which is about 100km southwest of the town.

The fighting has been centred around the villages of Taung Inn, Taung Dwin, and Nan Phyu, according to locals.

“There are ongoing battles taking place between Taung Inn and Taung Dwin, as the revolutionary teams intercept troops going to Htaw Thar,” said a local woman, adding that the regime has also carried out more than 20 airstrikes since the fighting began.

Meanwhile, she said, ground troops, including members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia, continue to carry out attacks on villages in the area.

Among the villages affected by the recent fighting are Nyaung Tha Pyay, Nyaung Wun, Laung Kaung, Taung Inn, Thar Nann Taw, Nan Phyu, Nan Thee, Taung Kone, Htaw Thar, Kaung Khway, Aww Zee Khon, Man Nwe, Tin Ta Paung and Kan Htoo.

Further details regarding the impact of the junta’s offensive in the area were not available due to an internet and telephone blackout imposed by the military.

The junta base in Htaw Thar was also attacked in late 2022, resulting in the death of one military officer and three Pyu Saw Htee members, as well as the seizure of five guns and several missiles and other ammunition, according to statements released at the time by resistance forces.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that there are more than 1.8 million internally displaced persons in Myanmar. More than half are in the country’s northwest, which has seen the fiercest fighting since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021.

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