The victims, all of whom were unarmed, included a disabled civilian and 10 members of local anti-junta guerrilla forces
This report contains disturbing images
Eleven unarmed people, including teenagers, were captured and massacred by junta soldiers in a village in Sagaing Region on Tuesday, shortly before locals found the smoldering remains of their burnt bodies.
Some 100 soldiers raided Done Taw in Salingyi Township at around 11am after guerrilla fighters detonated explosives in an attack against a military convoy travelling nearby, local media reported.
Villagers found the badly charred bodies of the 11 victims in a pile, some with their hands tied, leading many to assume they were burned alive.
“The victims were taking shelter in a makeshift hut while running away from the military raiding their village,” said someone who is helping to organise their funerals. “The soldiers found them, beat them up and burned them.”
Done Taw is near the Letpadaung copper mine, which is owned by the military conglomerate MEHL and a Chinese company named Wanbao.
The Salingyi G-Z Local People’s Defence Force (PDF) also said the victims were burned alive after the soldiers beat them.
The leader of the Done Taw PDF, a self-organising anti-junta guerrilla group, added that the 11 were unarmed when they were captured. “They beat them to the brink of death and burned them alive before they died. Some of them are not even 18,” he said.
It is unclear if there were any eyewitnesses to the incident and Myanmar Now was unable to immediately confirm the exact circumstances of their deaths.
The victims were all male and included a 40-year-old with paraplegia and five teenagers under the age of 18, while the rest were aged 30 or younger, according to a list compiled by the Done Taw PDF.
The paraplegic man was the only victim who was not a member of the Done Taw PDF, the leader said.
Most of the victims were unrecognisable from being so badly burned, he added, except for 17-year-old Than Myint Aung, who was identifiable from his ear piercing.
All 10 PDF members worked as volunteers helping Covid-19 patients before joining the resistance against the junta, he added.
A video filmed by locals showed a group of burnt bodies lying in various positions in a pile of ashes with smoke still rising from the remains of what appears to have been a hut.
“Motherfucker,” says one of the people in the video, using a Burmese phrase that plays on the spelling of military chief Min Aung Hlaing’s name. “They’re not even recognisable anymore.”
The soldiers found the 11 victims on a betel farm at around 11am, around which time villagers heard gunshots and saw smoke rising from near that area, the PDF leader said. “They didn’t know that the soldiers were coming there until it was too late,” he said.
He added that he believed the victims were not shot dead.
Villagers were still fleeing for their safety when they gave accounts to Myanmar Now in the chaotic aftermath of the killings.
The 11 victims “were running through the farm and got shot and were taken to the hut where they were burned,” said a Done Taw villager.
Another local said she saw a monk get shot in the arm when soldiers started firing from the North Yamar bridge at around 7am.
“I saw the monk get shot with my own eyes,” she told Myanmar Now. “I heard that the bullet went neatly through his arm. I didn’t get to see his arm though.” The monk was not one of the 11 who were caught and he survived the gunshot, she added.
Early on Tuesday morning the Done Taw PDF attacked a convoy of military vehicles using three homemade explosives near the North Yamar bridge, which is about 300 meters from the village.
After the attack, soldiers began searching for the assailants in nearby woodlands, the PDF leader said. The soldiers were then seen entering the village from near the Pathein-Monywa road at 8am, according to other locals.
Their arrival led to people fleeing from nine villages in Salingyi and neighbouring Yinmabin Township, including Done Taw, Kyay Sarkya, Kan Kone and Aung Moe.
“They marched into the region on foot via the North Yamar bridge. They had a car with them as well. They also fired heavy and light weapons in the area,” said a villager from Kyay Sarkya village, which neighbours Done Taw.
Done Taw has only one entrance and exit route, through the Shwe Myin Tin farm on the bank of the Chindwin river, locals said. The lack of escape routes was likely the reason the 11 victims were captured, they added.
A local man living close to Done Taw said the soldiers who terrorised the area stationed themselves on Tuesday evening on Laynhyin hill, about a mile away from Done Taw.
The Done Taw PDF gave Myanmar Now a list naming ten of the 11 victims. They are: Arkar Soe, 14; Hsan Min Oo, 17; Than Myint Aung, 17; Kyaw Thet, 17; Chit Nan Oo, 19; Win Kaw, 20; Htet Ko, 22; Zin Min Tun, 22; Tin Naing, 30, and U Soe, 40.
The unnamed eleventh victim was 17 years old, the group said.
Earlier this year junta soldiers massacred dozens in the Sagaing township of Kani.
Editor’s note: after Myanmar Now published this story, it emerged that U Soe, 40, was not among the 11 victims and had survived the military raid. More details about the error can be found here.
(Reporting by Khin Yi Yi Zaw, Maung Shwe Wah, Zaw Ye Thwe and Wathone Nyein Aye)