Junta soldiers have looted houses in the Kayah State capital Loikaw after residents fled fighting between regime troops and resistance groups in the town, according to locals.
The majority of Loikaw’s residents fled after clashes broke out on January 7 and the junta launched airstrikes.
Witnesses said they saw people in civilian clothes stealing items from homes as junta troops in vehicles provided security for them.
“They even used vehicles to carry the stolen items when they looted houses by the road. Junta soldiers went in front and people in civilian clothes followed them as they stole from the houses. How could they do that while people are in so much trouble?” said a witness.
Junta soldiers have also reportedly looted shops in neighboring Demoso Township. Locals said they stole food and valuables from a shop on a main road in Demoso.
“They broke open the doors of the shop and ate food and drinks. They also took food and drinks and other valuables. We feel sorry that our belongings were stolen even after we were forced to flee from our homes,’ said one Demoso resident.
Loikaw People’s Defense Force said it would do as much as it can to protect the property of local residents, and vowed to take harsh action against thieves.
One Demoso resident said: “We fled from Loikaw on January 10. We used to live in Demoso, and fled to Loikaw three months ago. Now, we have had to flee again from Loikaw. We bought equipment on credit just last year to run a car workshop. And we haven’t fully paid for the equipment yet. We had to leave behind all those things when we fled. I don’t know if the equipment is still there or if it has already been stolen.”
Over half of the 300,000 population of Kayah State have already been displaced by fighting following last year’s coup, while the majority of Loikaw’s 150,000 residents had fled their homes by Monday, according to locals. More people are thought to have fled as junta airstrikes continued on Thursday.
“To us, it seems true that misfortunes never come on their own. While we were fleeing, our homes were being looted. I have now arrived in Shan State after a long journey. My house was only built two years ago,” said one Loikaw resident.
The looting and ransacking of civilian houses by military regime forces has also been reported during raids in Sagaing and Magwe regions, as well as in Karen, Chin and Kachin states.
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