Junta troops kill 28 militia members in Myanmar’s Sagaing region

Locals said there were too many bodies to cremate.

Junta troops ambushed and killed 28 People’s Defense Force members in Sagaing region’s Myinmu township, witnesses told Radio Free Asia on Monday.

The dead include 20 members of the Black Eagle defense force, five members of the  Myaung Revolution Army, two members of  People’s Security Group-Myinmu and a 14-year-old boy connected with the anti-junta militias, a People’s Security Group official told RFA Burmese.

A local who saw the bodies said that some were shot dead, but others died after their limbs were cut off.

“They were shot in their heads and chests and body parts were cut off,” said the local who didn’t want to be named for fear of reprisal.

“We were not able to cremate the bodies because there was not enough wood for the number of dead. They were buried by backhoe.”

Military violence across Sagaing

Sagaing region has been an anti-junta stronghold and cradle of resistance to the country’s brutal military rule since the army seized power in a February 2021 coup.

Junta forces have swept through villages across Sagaing, sometimes more than once, to find and punish suspected resistance fighters belonging to People’s Defense Forces and their civilian supporters.

Junta troops often torch not only the houses of families they suspect of being revolutionaries, but also those of teachers who participated in the nationwide civil disobedience movement following the coup.

In 2022, RFA reported that junta troops killed 29 men in Mon Taing Pin village, maiming and burning the bodies in a 44-hour orgy of violence that was recorded on a soldier’s cell phone.

RFA analyzed a cache of files retrieved from a cell phone that was dropped in a neighboring township and found by a villager. It included an image of about 30 men with their hands tied behind their backs on the grounds of a monastery, and victims of execution a day later.

Other instances of Burmese military atrocities and abuses by security forces have been revealed through testimony from victims and military defectorsimages and footage from citizens’ cell phonesCCTV video; and satellite imagery analysis of dozens of villages in Sagaing burned to the ground. 

More allegations of atrocities and war crimes by junta forces have piled up since the Mon Taing Pin massacre. In the deadliest reported incident since the coup, as many as 200 people were killed in an April 11 air strike on Pa Zi Gyi village in Sagaing’s Kanbalu township.

Video of mutilated victims

In last week’s incident in Myinmu township, video obtained by RFA showed women and children crying next to the mutilated bodies.

Residents said that the defense force soldiers killed were men from Myaung and Myinmu townships who joined the militias because they wanted to defend their villages after the coup.

Junta telegram channels said Saturday that the junta seized 10 guns and ammunition in Friday’s ambush.

The column of 70 troops who killed the defense force members occupied Myaung township on Saturday.

Calls to the junta spokesman for Sagaing region, Tin Than Win, went unanswered.

From February 2021 to July 2023, there were 144 killings of five or more people across the country, and 1,595 people died, the shadow National Unity Government’s Ministry of Human Rights announced on July 31. 

The NUG, a shadow government formed of politicians ousted in the coup and other pro-democracy campaigners, did not specify whether the dead were civilians or defense force members.

RFA News