Violence escalates in Yaw region of northwestern Myanmar

Clashes between the Myanmar army and local resistance forces have been intensifying in the Yaw area of Magway Region since the National Unity Government (NUG) declared war on the coup regime. 

A spokesperson for the Yaw People’s Defence Force (YDF) told Myanmar Now at least 70 junta troops have been killed since the September 7 announcement, but that his forces had endured no casualties, only injuries. 

Fifteen soldiers are said to have died on September 9 and 10 alone in Gangaw, one of three townships that comprises the Yaw region; the other two townships are Htilin and Saw. The area borders Sagaing Region and Chin State. 

“You could say that there are battles in every corner of the Yaw region. The situation has been tense,” the spokesperson said.

In order to crush armed resistance and local support for the PDF groups, the junta has been systematically burning down residents’ homes in the area, according to the YDF.

“The soldiers burn down villages when they lose a battle—they also shell civilian houses. There have been some people that have died because of it,” the YDF spokesperson.

The coup regime troops reportedly started with the villages of Hnan Khar and Htei Hlaw in Gangaw, setting fire to an estimated 100 homes over the last week. Myanmar army troops also killed 18 people in Myin Thar, also in Gangaw Township, on September 9. Many of the victims were teenagers who had been defending the village, locals said. 

The remains of a house that was burned down by the military in Htei Hlaw village, Gangaw township on September 12 (Supplied)

On Monday morning, junta troops killed two people who had been seeking refuge in a monastery in Kyaukse village, in neighbouring Sagaing Region’s Kalay Township, and reportedly burned down two houses in the area, according to villagers who saw the smoke from afar.

The YDF spokesperson said that the soldiers committed the alleged crimes after a clash with local resistance forces near a bridge located between Kyaukse and Gangaw, killing two of the military council’s troops. 

During the clash, those who were able to ran to the forests, with elders staying behind at the monastery, he explained. One of the victims killed there was reportedly 55-year-old Kyaukse resident Thaung Myint—the name of the other individual was not known at the time of reporting. 

Pyu Saw Htee explosives

A YDF attack on a police station 15 miles south of Gangaw on Saturday led to an unexpected discovery by the resistance, who targeted a police station in the village of Min Ywar but had to retreat upon the arrival of military reinforcements. 

As they fled the scene, YDF members found a makeshift arsenal concealed some five miles away in Khauk Khu village. Here, they say the Pyu Saw Htee—a network of military supporters that has emerged to counter the anti-coup resistance—had stored explosives and ammunition worth 7 million kyat (US$3,825). 

“When our troops arrived near Khauk Khu village, having heard there was Pyu Saw Htee armoury hidden there, we combed through the forest looking for it,” the YDF spokesperson said. 

The explosives that the YDF seized from the pro-military Pyu Saw Htee collective (Supplied)

The YDF confiscated the weaponry, which included rifle bullets and highly sensitive dynamite typically used in mining activities. 

He said that Pyu Saw Htee members had been supplied arms by the Myanmar army during clashes with the local resistance in the Yaw area. 

“We heard that they weren’t allowed to use weapons except during battles. Many Pyu Saw Htee  died during those battles,” he added.

Local resistance coalition forms 

PDFs in the Yaw area have also joined forces to ambush the junta. On Monday, the Saw Township PDF fought alongside the YDF in an attack on a military column in Saw, which borders Mindat Township in southern Chin State. 

The clash started at 11am near the villages of Kan Chaung and Khwin Chaung on the Gangaw-Kyaukhtu road, according to Yaw Padu, the 60-year-old leader of the Saw PDF. 

He said the joint force intercepted the junta troops who were returning to their station in the occupied village of Kyauk Sit after terrorising other villages in Saw Township.

“We only used long-range weapons. We both employed heavy weapons,” Yaw Padu. “We fired a shell at them when we saw them moving towards Saw.”

The number of casualties on either side of the clash was not known at the time of reporting.  

The Myittha River runs through Gangaw Township in the Northern Yaw region, as is seen from Google Earth

Another attack in Saw, which involved the use of landmines by the local resistance coalition, killed dozens of junta troops on Saturday according to Yaw Padu. 

He said a Myanmar army soldier initially told residents of Kan Chaung village at 6am that day that some 60 soldiers would be joining the side of the people and would surrender their weapons. 

When the villagers went to welcome who they thought were defecting troops, they instead were ambushed with both heavy and light weapon fire, forcing them to flee. 

Later that afternoon, the PDFs launched a counterattack on the troops using landmines. 

“We tried to offer them a chance to surrender their weapons but they started shooting and requested reinforcements. We heard 200 more reinforcement troops would be arriving, so we set up landmines,” Yaw Padu told Myanmar Now. 

“The troops were marching towards the area on foot. We worked in groups and set up landmines,” he said, adding that some 30 junta soldiers were subsequently killed in the incident. 

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