Myanmar: Junta troops accused of burning spree in Sagaing region


Myanmar villagers accuse the ruling junta’s troops of torching hundreds of buildings during a three-day raid in the country’s north, as the military struggles to crush resistance to its rule.

The Sagaing region has seen fierce fighting and bloody reprisals since the coup last year in which the army toppled the democratically elected civilian government.

The local “People’s Defence Force” (PDF) members clash regularly with junta troops and analysts say the informal militia has surprised government forces with its effectiveness.

The beleaguered military has on numerous occasions called in air strikes to support its troops on the ground.

Troops torched hundreds of buildings in the villages of Kinn, Upper Kinn and Ke Taung over three days last week, locals and media reports said.

On 26 May, villagers in Kinn fled as soldiers approached and began shooting into the air, said one resident who requested anonymity.

“The next morning we saw smoke rising from our village before they left.

“Over 200 houses were burned down … my house was totally burned down, only the concrete foundation is left.”

Drone footage purporting to show the aftermath obtained by AFP showed columns of smoke rising into the sky from the villages, set along a roughly 8km stretch of the Chindwin river.

A health clinic seen in the video matched the geolocation of one in Ke Taung village.

AFP digital verification reporters confirmed the footage had not appeared online before last week but could not independently verify reports from the region.

Soldiers “raided and destroyed our houses”, said Ke Taung villager Aye Tin, who requested to use a pseudonym.

“And they also burned motor boats that we use for transport and for carrying food for our village, including my boat.

“My life is ruined, as I have lost my home … and I nothing left to do for a living.”

Satellite images from US space agency NASA showed fires in locations that matched Ke Taung and Kinn villages last week.

The junta has previously rebuffed claims its troops have torched houses, accusing “terrorist” PDF fighters of starting the fires.

In a speech on Tuesday, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said “efforts were made to minimise the casualties as much as possible in performing the counterattacks to terror acts.”

“Now, the country is in tranquility,” he said, according to state newspaper the Global New Light of Myanmar. (Source: CNA)