Kawlin Firestorm Expands as Myanmar Junta Bombs Civilians in Sagaing

Myanmar junta forces have launched airstrikes on civilian targets around Kawlin in Sagaing Region after torching some 80 percent of the town, according to resistance forces.

The airstrikes damaged 30 buildings including a village school and homes, amid clashes in the area between March 2 and 4, they said.

Kawlin was seized by People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) and the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) on Nov. 6 last year. The regime recaptured the town on Feb. 12 after almost 10 days of intense fighting.

Junta troops have since destroyed most of Kawlin town and are now raiding villages on its outskirts, resulting in clashes with local resistance forces.

Around 120 junta soldiers and allied Pyu Saw Htee militia conducted raids in eastern Kawlin Township on March 2, clashing with combined forces of the Kawlin District PDF and People’s Defense Team (PDT).

A clinic, two school buildings, and five houses were damaged by airstrikes on March 3. Two resistance fighters were also wounded.

A building lies wrecked after being hit by a bomb during a junta air raid. KLPDF

Another two dozen houses were damaged in bombing raids on March 4. The following day, junta troops torched three houses in Kyauktan village where they had stayed overnight.

“Fighting can break out any time. Junta troops are looting and torching houses in raids on villages. So, we have had to fight back to stop them,” said a member of Kawlin Township PDT.

The bodies of three junta soldiers were found in Kanthar village as resistance forces cleared the area following the raiders’ retreat, he said. Some weapons were also reportedly seized at the village.

On Monday evening, resistance groups attacked a temporary junta outpost nearby, resulting in three hours of intense fighting.

Junta troops were reportedly raiding Chapgon village on Wednesday as they headed in the direction of Kyauk Phato, a gold mining area in Kawlin Township.

Over 1,500 vehicles, along with more than 15,000 drivers and travelers, had been stranded near Kyauktan village on the Shwebo-Myitkyina road since Feb. 27 due to the fighting. The road reopened to vehicles on Wednesday after junta troops left the area, according to a member of Kawlin District PDF.

One cargo truck driver said: “I was able to leave today after being trapped there for more than a week. I heard that the road was blocked by both junta military and PDF forces because of intense fighting. We didn’t have access to phone or internet services so couldn’t contact anyone. PDF members came and distributed rice. We had to sleep on the road.”

A field cratered after a bomb tore through a smallholding in Kawlin Township. / KLPDF

Junta troops have also reportedly killed civilians during attacks. The bodies of three civilians were found dumped near a creek in Nga Gyi Eain village after regime troops raided the village on March 1.

“After recapturing Kawlin, they torched wards here,” said a Kawlin resident.

“Troops have been deployed on multistory buildings and are destroying any structures that obscure their view. They have also been raiding villages surrounding the town and torching houses.”

The regime has denied killing civilians and torching houses in Kawlin, saying that social media reports of junta atrocities in the town are misinformation.

Residents say the regime has carried out arson attacks in more than 25 Kawlin villages.

Junta ground, air and artillery strikes have forced over 30,000 residents of urban wards and 30 villages to abandon their homes.

Irrawaddy News