Some 800 junta troops in several columns are taking part in the onslaught, with local resistance groups saying they are unable to fight back
Hundreds of junta soldiers have rampaged through villages in central Myanmar’s Myaing Township in recent days, killing and burning civilians, destroying homes, and forcing thousands to flee, locals and resistance fighters have said.
The entire populations of 15 villages in the northern part of the township have been displaced by the onslaught, which began last week on Monday, a People’s Defence Force (PDF) leader who goes by the name Cross told Myanmar Now.
And there have been more raids in other areas of Myaing, with a total of roughly 800 soldiers marching in separate columns through the Magway Region township in an effort to crush resistance to the dictatorship.
Locals found the remains of three people who had been burned after soldiers raided Latyetma village on Tuesday, Cross said.
“We can’t even tell if they’re male or female; only the bones are left,” he said. “We found them near the cemetery in the west of the village.”
The soldiers detained around 200 of the villagers but released them the following day. About five of the freed detainees had been beaten, Cross said, adding that the village was now deserted.
“The displaced villagers still don’t dare to come back,” he said.
Soldiers camped in the village until Friday and robbed and ransacked houses, he added.
“Some phone shops were also robbed,” he added. “They took packs of rice and a lot of houses were destroyed.”
A Myaing-based anti-junta guerilla group called Shwe Dar Bo said on Monday that the soldiers had stolen valuables, destroyed several houses and tortured residents who had taken shelter in monasteries.
There have been several clashes between local resistance fighters and junta forces in the south and west of Myaing in recent months. Last week was the first time junta troops have entered villages in the northwestern part of the township, the PDF leader said.
Soldiers stationed themselves in the village of Linkataw for two days from January 14 and destroyed two houses there, a local told Myanmar Now. One belonged to a member of the National League for Democracy and another to a teacher taking part in the Civil Disobedience Movement, the local added.
“Some people were taken as guides when the column left,” they added.
The column headed south towards the villages of Kyikan and Taw on Sunday morning. On the same day, a separate column raided Paungte village, which is close to Latyetma.
In the west of the township on Sunday morning, soldiers raided the villages of Tha Dut, Nyaungbin Lay, and Wei Taung, said Cross.
“Tha Dut village was torched–25 houses in the western part of the village were destroyed in the fire,” he said on Sunday evening. “We still don’t know what exactly happened to the villagers. They’re still torching houses in Nyaungbin Lay village. The two villages are next to each other. We can still see the smoke coming out of the villages.”
He added: “They are torching the northern part of Wei Taung village. I heard they are even trying to burn the petrol plants.”
Chaung Sone village, which has a population of nearly 700 and is located in the north of Myaing, was also torched and robbed by soldiers, he said. “The entire region is displaced. We can’t start attacking them as their reckless firing of artillery shells could hit the shelters of the displaced locals.”
Khun Chaint, a Myaing PDF officer who leads fighters in the south of the township, said the raids were aimed at flushing out PDF positions.
“They’re looking for PDF camps for the most part,” he said. “They’re firing artillery shells and abducting civilians and using them as human shields. So we can’t do much.”
Myanmar Now has been unable to gather details about casualties from the recent raids. Myaing is one of numerous townships in central and northern Myanmar where internet access was cut off last year.
The township is home to some 300 villages, and its residents have continued to stage protests against the junta almost a year after the coup and despite the military’s murderous crackdowns on expressions of defiance.