The military has been systematically destroying villages in Sagaing Region and Chin State to ‘discourage people from taking part in the revolution,’ locals say
The military burned down more than 1,000 homes in villages in townships across Sagaing Region and Chin State during the first week of May alone, according to local sources.
On the evening of May 1, Myanmar army soldiers torched nearly the entire 800-household village of Ah Shey See in Sagaing’s southern Kalay Township. In the days that followed, they carried out widespread acts of arson some 200 miles away in Ayadaw Township’s Malethar and Kyaung Sin Aing villages.
Around 90 junta troops had been stationed in Kyaung Sin Aing since carrying out earlier raids on communities in northwestern Taze Township, also in Sagaing. They then started burning homes in the occupied village on Thursday morning, a source close to the anti-junta Taze People’s Defence Force said.
The individual did not know how many of Kyaung Sin Aing’s 300 households had been lost, but noted that most of its 3,000 residents had fled.
The destruction of Malethar in southern Ayadaw on Monday affected at least 500 of the village’s 600 homes, according to a Wednesday statement released by the township’s anti-junta information team. It was the fourth time that the community had been targeted by the military since the coup in February last year.
“The wind was blowing north and they started torching from the southern part of the village. The fire spread so fast that they didn’t even need to put in much effort,” a local man told Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity.
Only around 30 homes, as well as a school, kindergarten and library were totally spared, he added.
The local man said that a elderly woman, who was also blind, was unable to flee with the other residents of Malethar and is believed to have been killed in the fire.
Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify whether there were casualties in the fires in Ayadaw and Kalay.
“They want to discourage the people from taking part in the revolution, but we are not scared,” a man who lost his home in the burning of Ashae See said. “The more they terrorise us, the more our hatred for them grows.”
Myanmar army troops have also perpetrated similar recent attacks on villages in neighbouring Chin State, which, like Sagaing, has been a stronghold of resistance forces.
Some 100 soldiers from a 30-vehicle military convoy burned more than 20 homes in two villages along the road connecting Hakha and Falam on Wednesday: Ramthlo and Tlangzar, a spokesperson for the Chin National Defence Force (CNDF) said. Both villages are located in Falam Township.
The CNDF ambushed the military unit with guerrilla attacks involving explosives, reportedly killing some 18 junta troops. The Chin resistance group suffered one casualty as well, according to the spokesperson.
The military council has not released any information on casualties in Chin State and has previously denied responsibility for acts of arson, instead blaming fires on resistance forces.
Data For Myanmar, an organisation which has been collecting data on crimes committed by the junta, released a statement on May 1 saying that 11,417 houses had been destroyed in military raids since the coup. Of these, more than 7,500 homes were in Sagaing, 2,121 were in Magway, and 1,147 were in Chin State.
In an April 18 statement marking the first anniversary of the establishment of Myanmar’s National Unity Government, acting president Duwa Lashi La explained that his administration had established policies to compensate people for such losses caused by the junta.
“We want to promise to the people that we will rebuild their homes after the revolution has finished,” he said.