Junta soldiers and Pyu Saw Htee members ambush two villages in Magway Region’s Pauk Township, displacing residents and burning hundreds of homes.
A combined force of Myanmar army soldiers and members of the junta-allied Pyu Saw Htee militias raided two villages in central Myanmar and torched more than 200 homes this week, locals said.
The communities of Lel Yar and Letpan Hla, 18 miles south of Pauk Township in Magway Region, were targeted in the attacks carried out on Wednesday and Thursday.
Lel Yar was ambushed first.
“We could see them marching towards our village,” a 30-year-old woman from Lel Yar said. “We heard someone yelling that the Pyu Saw Htee and soldiers were coming and we fled on our motorbikes.”
More than 1,700 people from the village were displaced by the assault, including 500 children, according to local sources.
At around 8pm on Wednesday the troops and militia members began torching homes in Lel Yar, destroying some 200 out of the village’s 260 households.
“We could still hear gunshots, so we thought they were still shooting in the village but we started to see flames there,” the Lel Yar resident said. “Since the wind was blowing, the fire consumed the whole village.”
Among the properties lost to the fire were tens of thousands of dollars worth of agricultural and food supplies, including a two-storey barn, a grain processor for livestock feed, a cowshed, a waterpump, and a major harvest of onions.
“I hope they face the same fate that we did,” the woman from Lel Yar said, describing the military and the Pyu Saw Htee as “evil.”
The following day, the troops crossed the nearby Yaw stream and raided Letpan Hla, setting fire to at least 30 of the village’s 90 homes, according to a member of a local anti-junta defence force in southern Pauk Township.
“They fired heavy artillery and 60mm shells as they entered the village. We evacuated the civilians to a hill nearby and let the junta forces destroy the village,” he told Myanmar Now.
It was not confirmed at the time of reporting how many villagers were forced to flee.
The invading military column was made up of more than 150 junta personnel, the defence force member estimated, and noted that the Pyu Saw Htee members involved in the raid were identified as coming from the villages of Wun Chone, Pin Taung and Thit Cho Kone.
He said that he was upset that the resistance force was unable to protect Letpan Hla from the attack.
“It’s our fault that the village got destroyed,” he added.
The guerrilla fighters also reportedly tried to defend against the raid on Lel Yar, but were forced to retreat by the significant difference in firepower.
“How would our handmade weapons work against them? We have very poor aim because of our very low-tier weapons,” the defence force member told Myanmar Now.
The junta column left Letpan Hla on Friday and was last seen heading towards the villages of Boet Mei and Inn Nge Daunt. Local resistance groups had reportedly formed an alliance and were anticipating the arrival of the troops.
In June, junta forces set fire to the village of Kinma, 20 miles south of Pauk town, destroying 80 percent of the homes and killing an elderly couple who had been unable to flee the attack.
Pauk Township is located en route to southern Chin State, which has become a resistance stronghold and site of major clashes between local defence forces and the Myanmar Army.
The military junta has been arming militia groups as part of its effort to crush anti-regime forces.
The “people’s militias”—or Pyu Saw Htee, as they are commonly known—have been deployed in many parts of Sagaing and Magwe regions where armed resistance groups have been most active.