Myanmar / Burma

Nearly 40 civilians killed in 10 days by military in Myanmar’s Sagaing

Military troops killed more than three dozen civilians — including women and children — in four townships in Myanmar’s Sagaing region in a span of 10 days beginning late last month, residents and members of the anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia said Wednesday.

At least 38 villagers died during military raids on villages in Myinmu, Pale, Wetlet and Kani townships between Jan. 28 and Feb. 6. Two dozen of the victims were from Myinmu, six from Wetllet, five from Pale, and three from Kani, sources said.

The first deaths occurred on Jan. 31, when three military helicopters fired on a crowd observing a graduation ceremony for trainees with a branch of the local PDF known as the Zarmani Revolution Forces in Myinmu’s Pada Tine village, a PDF fighter from the township told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

The fighter said that at least 20 villagers were killed in the attack and 15 remain missing.

“After the military troops left, we found bodies of three women on the street. All three were women in their 50s. A witness said [troops] told them not to flee but they didn’t listen, and they shot them. They shot them from a distance and the women were killed on the spot,” he said.

“We also found remains of six villagers whose bodies were burned to ashes after they were killed. [Troops] chopped off their limbs and heads before they burned them.”

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The PDF fighter said his group counted at least 20 victims among the bodies — most of them elderly locals who were unable to flee. He said a 13-year-old girl was also among the victims and that villagers are still trying to identify her.

Troops also burned down two homes in which they discovered PDF uniforms in nearby Padoke Tine village, the site of around 800 homes, the PDF fighter said.

Military forces raided Myinmu’s Nyaung Pin Wun village and arrested four residents on Feb. 3, a day after the PDF attacked the township’s Gon Nyin Seik police station, residents told RFA. On Feb. 5, troops returned the bodies of four people who had been shot in the head, they said.

And on Feb. 4, residents of Wetlet’s Thit Seint Gyi village said they discovered the charred bodies of six civilians whose hands were tied behind their backs.

PDF sources said all residents had fled as troops entered the village on Jan. 29, but some returned to their homes to get their ID cards and valuables, only to be detained and killed.

The victims of the killing were identified as Thura Htun, Ko Ko Lin Maung, Min Min Tun, Myint Aung, Thae Htun Aung and Zaw Min Tun — all men aged from 17 to 50 years old, they said.

‘They know how to find us’

A PDF member from Wetlet township, who gave his name as “James Bond” to protect his identity, told RFA that the victims were tortured to death and that the military burned their remains.

“If they want to kill us, they know how to find our PDF bases. We are at war, and they are carrying out mass killings. It is unacceptable in terms of ethics and international law,” he said.

“The villagers are civilians fleeing their homes. If [the troops] were capable, they could fight and kill the PDF forces. The mass killing of civilians is a crime under international law and totally unacceptable.”

Similarly, residents of Pale township said two civilians — 35-year-old Chan Mya Hlaing and 50-year-old Khin Maung Swe — were killed when the PDF attacked a junta administrative building in the town center on Feb. 5.

On Feb. 3, three civilians were killed when a joint force of junta troops and pro-military Pyu Saw Htee militia fighters raided Pale’s Min Taing Pin village, alleging that residents there were supporting the PDF.

Similarly, military forces captured seven residents of Kani township’s Kin village last week and villagers found the bodies of two of them in the nearby Chin Dwin River on Feb. 2, sources said.

Residents told RFA the victims were not PDF supporters and were unable to run when the military forces entered the area.

Repeated attempts to contact junta Deputy Information Minister Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for his response to the claims went unanswered on Wednesday.

Armed forces now ‘terrorists’

Aung Myo Min, human rights minister for the shadow National Unity Government, told RFA that the military no longer deserves to be referred to as Myanmar’s “armed forces.”

“We can clearly see that the military is committing horrible crimes,” he said. “They are committing acts of terrorism, including murder and the burning of homes. We should designate them as a ‘terrorist group.’ It is time to exercise mechanisms to deter these terrorist acts.”

Zaw Zaw, a resident of Pale, told RFA that the area has become too dangerous to stay.

“They are brutally killing civilians however they like. It’s no longer safe for us to live here anymore,” he said.

“I want the world to know what’s going on. I want government employees who support the junta to know. I want to appeal to the people of Myanmar to join the revolution, as there is no longer any security for anyone.”

According to the research group Data for Myanmar, which documents the impact of armed conflict in the country, junta forces have burned down at least 3,379 homes from 126 villages and townships in nine regions and states in the year since the military seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021, coup. More than 1,400 of the homes are in Sagaing region, the group said.

— Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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