On a rampage through more than ten villages in Ayadaw and Myinmu townships, a column of soldiers torched houses as well as executing unarmed civilians and a captive resistance fighter
Maung Shwe WahJuly 19, 2023
Ten civilians and a resistance member were killed during raids and arson attacks by the army in Sagaing Region’s Myinmu and Ayadaw townships this month, according to resistance forces active in the area.
Starting on July 6, according to the Myinmu Township People’s Defence Force (PDF), a column of around 300 soldiers assaulted more than 10 villages on the border between the two townships over the course of less than two weeks, while detaining and executing villagers and members of the PDF. The names and ages of some of the victims are still unconfirmed.
Junta troops also torched five villages in Myinmu Township and one in Ayadaw Township, resulting in the destruction of as many as 1,000 houses, Myinmu Township PDF spokesperson Khin Thaung said. The junta attacks on the villages occurred from July 6 to July 17.
“That column advanced into the villages. They burned only the villages that they already knew about by reputation,” he said, referring to the military’s suspicion that villagers are connected to or supporting PDF forces.
“Last night, they set fire to Mu Mandalay village and then went into Ayadaw. By noon, the military column had completely vanished. We couldn’t find it, even using a drone. Then they reappeared in the evening and started setting fires again,” he said.
Junta troops had initiated their assaults on the morning of July 6, at the village of Na Be Kyu, about nine miles east of Myinmu. While they were ransacking houses in the village, several local defence groups including the Myinmu PDF attacked them using long-range weapons.
The junta troops returned fire, then captured one of the defence group members, who had been hit by a bullet in the leg.
The next day, the junta column raided and set fire to the villages of Ma Gyi Kan and Gon Hnyin Seik, located in Myinmu Township north of Na Be Kyu.
According to Khin Thaung, while junta troops were setting fires in Gon Hnyin Seik, a village of around 400 houses, local residents discovered the bodies of three Na Be Kyu villagers and the defence group member who had been shot in the leg and captured during the Na Be Kyu raid.
The slain resistance fighter was 24 years old, and the three civilian men had ranged between 20 and 60, Khin Thaung said.
On July 9, the column raided the villages of Htein Kan, Ngar Kin (North), Ngar Kin (South), and Ngar Kin Ywar Ma.
Soldiers torched Ngar Kin (North), which contained some 800 households, and Ngar Kin Ywar Ma, according to Khin Thaung. Around two-thirds of the houses in the two villages were destroyed in the arson attack, he added.
Two days later, soldiers shot and killed a civilian they found heading west from Ngar Kin (North). The man, who was around 30 according to Khin Thaung, had been fleeing to a forest outside the village of Kan Thone Sint, where he lived.
The column then raided and torched Ayadaw Township’s Nyaung Pin and Ma Le Thar villages, destroying at least 100 houses. The bodies of a woman about 60 years old and two men aged about 50 and 80 were discovered while the junta troops conducted area clearing operations in the villages, the PDF spokesperson said.
On July 13, the column crossed back into Myinmu Township and raided villages near the Ayadaw-Myinmu Road, killing three civilian men in the village of Khwet Khwin, according to Khin Thaung. The victims were three men, one estimated to be about 30 and the others to be in their 40s.
“The identities of only two of them could be confirmed. One dead body has not been claimed. They also disfigured the face, cut off the ears and put them in a raincoat. We can’t confirm who it is yet,” he said.
The column continued raiding in the days afterwards, according to Khin Thaung, entering the village of Sat Pyar Kyin about three miles north of Khwet Khwin, and stationing there for three days before advancing into villages near Myinmu and Sagaing.
The junta forces carried out their arson attack on Mu Mandalay, a village of around 400 houses, on Monday evening, but further details about the damage are unavailable.
Rumours that arrests occurred in Mu Mandalay have not yet been confirmed, and the military council has not released any statements about area clearing or other operations in Myinmu Township.
About 70,000 homes have been burned throughout the country since the February 2021 military coup, according to estimates available as of Friday, and 3,805 people had been killed as of July 18 according to figures maintained by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
On July 13, military regime leader Min Aung Hlaing expressly called on his subordinates to step up offensives against resistance forces in Sagaing Region and in Chin and Karenni states.