A column of around 300 junta troops has clashed almost continuously with anti-regime forces in northern Sagaing Region’s Banmauk Township over the past week, forcing thousands of villagers to flee their homes.
Sources say that fighting began last Tuesday in an area about 15km southeast of the town of Banmauk, affecting more than half a dozen villages.
At least two displaced villagers, including a 10-year-old child, have died after stepping on landmines laid by the regime forces, residents reported.
A spokesperson for the Indaw People’s Defence Force (PDF), which has been fighting in the area alongside the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and local defence forces, said that a two-day battle that began on Saturday resulted in an unknown number of junta casualties.
“We saw several graves and blood stains on the ground as we were clearing the area. The locals had to flee in a panic during the battles. We still don’t know exactly how many junta troops we killed,” he said.
He added that the clash took place east of the villages of See Maw, Kyauk Ai, Pae Pin and Taunggyi, and that residents of other nearby villages, including Kyauk-U, Le-U and Chaung Pauk, have also been displaced.
The two civilians who were killed by landmines—10-year-old Phway Phway Khaing and 20-year-old Yin Htay—were residents of the village of Kyauk Tan, according to a man from See Maw.
“Phway Phway Khaing was killed on the spot and Yin Htay died this morning. It happened while they were fleeing to the woods,” he said, speaking to Myanmar Now on Monday.
The military has also carried out a series of airstrikes in the area and burned down dozens of houses in See Maw and other villages that have been emptied of their inhabitants since the fighting began, locals said.
The junta troops reportedly occupied See Maw for several days beginning on Thursday, but later moved to Le-U, some 3km to the east, on Sunday, according to resistance sources.
There were no reported clashes on Monday, but fighting is expected to resume as the military continues with its offensive, the Indaw PDF spokesperson said.
Regime forces have also been carrying out operations in neighbouring Katha Township, where they have been accused of using local civilians as human shields.