7,000 Civilians Flee Homes in Magwe as Myanmar Junta Troops Attack Villages

By The Irrawaddy 14 March 2023

Around 200 junta troops have been raiding villages in the north of Pauk Township in Magwe Region since last week, forcing more than 7,000 locals from 12 villages to flee their homes. More than 60 people have been detained, according to local sources.

Junta troops detained around 60 villagers at the monastery in San Pe village on Monday and were interrogating them on the whereabouts of local People’s Defense Force (PDF) leaders, according to locals.

A local resident told The Irrawaddy on Monday at noon: “Most of the people detained are from San Pe village. [Junta troops] are destroying houses, accusing their owners of being PDF leaders. They are still destroying houses. Detained villagers were also forced to point out the homes of PDF leaders and are being investigated.”

San Pe village has over 100 households. Local resistance groups are unable to approach the junta-occupied village, said Bo La Yaung, a leader of a PDF in northern Pauk.

“We told them [residents of San Pe] to flee last night [Sunday night]. But they could not and were trapped,” said Bo La Yaung.

Junta troops have also detained four residents of two villages nearby. The troops are raiding villages in two columns, each consisting of around 100 soldiers.

The troops have been deployed from Magwe’s Pakokku city, and it remains unclear which battalions or division they belong to.

A Pauk resident said: “Some of them were wearing ordinary clothes. Civilians in the northern part of Pauk have been on the run. When they [junta troops] came from the north, we fled to the south, and when they came from south, we fled to the north. We have nowhere else to flee and are hiding in forests.”

Pauk is among dozens of townships where the regime imposed martial law early last month. The township has seen a surge in junta raids since martial law was declared, according to local residents and resistance groups.

One resident said: “It seems like they [junta troops] don’t move in the daytime, and carry out raids in the evening and at night. Previously, junta troops used to fire shots [in the air] when they started raiding villages, so villagers had time to run. But they are not firing shots now. Before martial law was imposed, they usually carried out raids in daylight. But now, they usually carry out raids at night. [But] in villages close to [pro-regime] Pyu Saw Htee militia bases and where junta troops are stationed, they carry out raids at anytime of the day.”

Thousands of residents in Pauk Township have been displaced by recent junta raids. / CJ

Another junta column has been raiding at least three villages in the township since March 8.

“They now carry out raids at night. Reinforcements were brought in and there have been more raids since martial law was imposed,” said Bo La Yaung.

Two local women in Nyaung Wun Village were killed by junta artillery strikes on March 9, and an Auk Kyin villager was shot dead on the road, according to local sources.

On Feb. 2, the military junta imposed martial law in 37 townships across Sagaing, Magwe, Bago, Tanintharyi regions as well as Chin, Karen and Kayah states where the resistance movement is growing.

At a regime meeting on Feb. 9, junta chief Min Aung Hlaing said martial law would be extended to important townships to curb violence.