Soldiers and pro-junta militia members reportedly took the hostages, one of whom is underage, from the burned village and subjected them to beatings
A junta force raided and torched Htauk Shar Aing village in southern Kanbalu Township, Sagaing Region on Sunday morning, taking 12 of the residents hostage, according to local sources.
A column consisting of some 100 soldiers and pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia members arrived at the village—which contains some 300 households and is located approximately 35 miles southeast of Kanbalu by road—at around 5am on Sunday.
Around 150 houses, or nearly half of the homes standing in Htauk Shar Aing, were destroyed in an arson attack carried out by the junta column, according to a local woman in her 30s.
“They also killed the pigs and cows. Even my house was destroyed. Everything inside was destroyed as well. I couldn’t do anything but cry. A full half of the village suffered the same fate,” the woman said.
The soldiers from the column had come from their long-term base in Ya Ma Nay, a village located about two miles south of Htauk Shar Aing, according to the same woman.
“If a junta garrison is stationed in a village, the residents have to live in huts outside the village. The military came and took the men from those shelters as hostages,” the woman said.
The military reportedly also ransacked the village monastery’s basement and looted the goods stored there, which villagers had donated for the monks.
The village burned until around 8am on Sunday, after which the military brought the people they had captured to the monastery to hold and question them. They released the women and continued to hold 12 male hostages, one of whom was only 15 years old.
The hostages were beaten while they were held inside the monastery, according to the local woman, citing what the released captives had told her.
“The male hostages were beaten and struck when they couldn’t answer questions,” she said.
Having heard from released individuals that the military was using torture, she added that she was worried for her nephews, whom the junta was still holding captive.
“My own nephews are among the hostages and it pains me even more than getting my house burned down. At least we can rebuild the house. We can’t replace human life,” she said.
An officer serving in Battalion 4 of the anti-junta Kanbalu District People’s Defence Force also claimed the 12 hostages from Htauk Shar Aing were being interrogated and tortured in Ya Ma Nay, according to their information.
“We heard they were tying the captives’ hands behind their heads and leaving them out and exposed to the sun. Just imagine how painful it must be in this scorching heat,” the officer said.
The military and its allies have been known to take hostages in Sagaing Region to protect themselves from attacks by anti-junta armed groups. Civilians used as human shields by the regime forces are often later found dead.