The number of casualties from a junta campaign through Khin-U Township continues to grow as locals uncover new victims and the army targets more villages
Several more civilian deaths have been reported in Khin-U as Myanmar military troops perpetrate a series of air and ground attacks on communities in the besieged Sagaing Region township.
Three military columns began raiding villages in western Khin-U on November 15 in a campaign that has included multiple aerial assaults, reducing hundreds of homes to ashes and killing an estimated 14 residents and 10 resistance fighters, according to sources within local anti-junta defence forces.
“Some elderly people died in the burning houses, and others were killed after being arrested. Some children were shot dead while they tried to flee the raids,” said Lu Chaw, the spokesperson for the Khin-U People’s Defence Team (PDT).
Over the past week, Myanmar Now reported on the casualties of seven local resistance members and five civilians in attacks on the villages of Mone Hla and Kan Tharyar. Among the slain civilians were two boys, aged nine and 14, both shot dead by Myanmar army soldiers.
On Monday, it was learned that there were at least one dozen more fatalities during these assaults, most of whom were civilians from other nearby villages including Myin Daung and Myit Taw.
Myanmar Now was only able to gather further information about half of these victims.
Map indicating the routes of junta columns and subsequent raids of villages in western Khin-U Township
The deaths occurred after a joint force of two military columns entered western Khin-U from neighbouring Kanbalu Township to the north; the occupation led to an outbreak of fighting in Mone Hla on November 23 between junta soldiers and local resistance forces and involving airstrikes by the regime.
Both sides suffered casualties, including the death of at least six guerrilla fighters.
It was previously reported that 40-year-old civilian Daw Mya was killed by junta artillery fire while fleeing from Mone Hla, but another man in his 50s named Phoe Tauk from the same community was later also reported dead.
The next day—November 24—the joint Myanmar army column travelled south, and for one night occupied the village of Thar Wut Hti, more than two miles from Mone Hla. The soldiers joined a third column that had marched from Khin-U town and were linked to the shooting of the 14-year-old boy in Kan Tharyar during their advance.
The joint column from Kanbalu continued their southbound route until they arrived in Myin Daung, around four miles from Thar Wut Hti. They occupied the village for three days, until November 28, before departing towards Ye-U Township to the west.
Most of Myin Daung’s residents fled, returning only after the soldiers had left, at which time they discovered three charred bodies inside a village shop.
“I suspect that they were burned to death because the bodies were found with their arms wrapped around each other,” a Myin Daung local said.
The resident confirmed that the corpses belonged to three men who had lived in Myin Daung, identified as Nay Soe, 32; Ko Zaw, 48; and Tin Win Myint, 53.
Two burned bodies of Myin Daung locals are seen on November 28 (Supplied)
On November 25, the column from Khin-U left for the village of Myit Taw in the southeast. A 65-year-old local man, Hla Win, was reportedly shot dead by the soldiers there, according to Lu Chaw of the Khin-U Township PDT.
“The old man was walking with a cane and the soldiers shot him from behind,” the resistance group’s spokesperson told Myanmar Now.
After spending one night in Myit Taw, the troops left for Kan Thit on November 26, where 19-year-old resistance fighter Phoe Si Win was reportedly killed in a clash with the regime soldiers.
A local health facility in Myin Daung village after a junta raid (Supplied)
Fighting has broken out in Khin-U on a daily basis in recent weeks, according to a member of the third battalion of the Shwebo District chapter of the People’s Defence Force (PDF), which is based in the township. Around 20,000 Khin-U residents have been forced by the military campaign to flee their homes.
The battle in Mone Hla was the most severe of these incidents, said the PDF member, who participated in the fight.
“The air force opened fire for nearly an hour while the ground troops made steady advances,” he told Myanmar Now. “[The resistance] doesn’t have much firepower. We really have to be careful of using our firepower if we have multiple fights happening.”
“We have the courage to shoot them, but not the bullets,” he said.
Editor’s note: PDTs, known by the Burmese acronym of Pa Ka Pha, are township-based resistance units under the direct command of the publicly mandated National Unity Government’s defence ministry.