The attacks come as resistance forces continue to hold the township’s fire department chief and others for helping the regime to target dissidents
Regime forces have begun carrying out raids in Sagaing Region’s Budalin Township following the capture late last week of fire department staff and their families by local resistance groups.
According to sources in the area, a column of around 100 soldiers based in the Depayin Township village of Saing Pyin started attacking villages north of the town of Budalin early Thursday morning.
This column was later joined by another of around 70 troops based in Ku Taw, a village in western Budalin Township. At around 11am, the two columns converged in Kin San, a village some 20km north of Budalin, the sources said.
“The two columns combined to make one large force that I think will now start searching for the firefighters,” a local with ties to a resistance group told Myanmar Now.
The raids have forced hundreds of civilians from Kin San and other villages in the area to flee, according to residents.
Last Sunday, anti-regime groups stormed a fire station in downtown Budalin and detained 21 people, including the township’s fire department chief, 12 firefighters and other staff, and eight family members.
The resistance groups said they targeted the fire department because of its collaboration with the junta in sealing off dissidents’ houses and arresting civilians, and for its failure to help put out fires set by regime soldiers.
The groups say the detainees are being held in a safe place as they face prosecution for their role in supporting the junta.
There were also reports that the army column from Saing Pyin is holding around 30 local villagers hostage. Myanmar’s military routinely uses civilians as human shields in areas where it faces attack from resistance forces.
“Many of the hostages were middle-aged people just going about their business when they were taken away. Some of them didn’t seem to think that the army posed a threat to them,” said the source close to local resistance forces.
Budalin is less than 40km north of Monywa, Sagaing Region’s capital and largest city, and the seat of the junta’s Northwestern Regional Military Command.
In late July, three student leaders were tortured and killed following a raid on their office in western Budalin Township. Sources say they were repeatedly stabbed in the chest before being put to death.
According to the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, around 1.6 million people have been displaced from their homes in Myanmar since the military seized power in February 2021, with Sagaing Region alone accounting for more than half of this figure.