Civilians Flee Junta Airstrikes, Raids and Shelling in Upper Myanmar

By The Irrawadddy 9 December 2021

Over 2,000 civilians from around 10 villages in Sagaing Region were forced to flee their homes because of Myanmar military raids and shelling.

The exodus of local residents follows an intense clash between junta forces and civilian resistance fighters in Sagaing’s Tabayin Township on Tuesday that culminated in the regime deploying an attack helicopter to launch airstrikes.

Around 120 junta troops are currently occupying Nagadwin Village in the west of Tabayin, which is also known as Depayin, Township and have been randomly bombarding nearby villages since Wednesday, according to locals. At the same time, some 60 regime reinforcements from Ye-U Township are heading to the area to carry out raids.

Nagadwin Village is located two to three miles east of Aung Si Myay Village, where junta forces clashed on Tuesday with People’s Defense Forces (PDFs).

On Tuesday morning, a fierce firefight erupted in the west of Tabayin Township when three civilian resistance groups surrounded a group of 100 junta troops who had been stationed outside Aung Si Myay Village for three days.

After sustaining heavy losses in two hours of battle, the regime troops called in a Russian-made Mi-35 helicopter gunship to attack the PDFs.

A civilian resistance fighter from the Depayin-PDF told The Irrawaddy on Thursday that the gunship used both machine guns and rockets to attack the civilian fighters, forcing them to retreat.

“Actually, our mission was to exterminate the whole military detachment there,” said the PDF member.

More than 50 junta troops, including a lieutenant, were reportedly killed or wounded, while two civilian resistance fighters were killed. However, The Irrawaddy was unable to verify the military casualties independently.

Civilian resistance forces claimed that at around 11am on Tuesday, the junta used two helicopters to take away the bodies of the soldiers killed or wounded.

In late November, the military regime also used two gunships and three other helicopters to attack civilian targets and deploy reinforcements in Nyaung Hla Village in the east of Tabayin Township, without engaging with any PDFs.

Two civilians were killed and three others wounded by the junta airstrikes, while some 30,000 residents from around 15 villages were forced to flee their homes.

Most of the 30,000 villagers who fled have since returned to their homes, according to an official from a local group that sheltered some of the displaced villagers.

Villagers displaced by fighting shelter at a monastery in Tabayin Township, Sagaing Region in early December. Photo- CJ

In late March, Sagaing was the first region of Myanmar where civilian armed resistance to the junta began, when locals started using homemade and traditional weapons to attack regime forces, following their brutal crackdowns on peaceful anti-coup protesters across the country.

After Sagaing became the center of armed resistance, including inflicting the highest number of regime casualties each month, the military regime responded by bringing in thousands of reinforcements and extra weapon systems such as helicopter gunships and gunboats.

“We have no more comment about the junta’s actions in our region. But I want to urge our National Unity Government to come up with a specific plan for our region to resist the military regime,” said the Depayin-PDF member.

“We are resisting junta troops with old and unserviceable firearms and we are sacrificing our lives. If we are not supplied with more modern and useful weapons, we won’t be able to resist them in the long term,” he added.

The junta has continued to escalate its atrocities including arbitrarily killing civilians, burning people alive, using detained civilians as human shields, bombarding residential areas, looting and burning houses and committing acts of sexual violence, especially in the most restive regions and states of Sagaing and Magwe and Chin, Shan and Kayah.

Regime forces reportedly burned alive 10 villagers, including five teenagers, during a raid on a village in Salingyi Township in Sagaing on Tuesday.

As of Wednesday, 1,318 people have been slain by regime forces, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a rights group that records deaths and arrests at the hands of the military since their February 1 coup.

Another 10,793 people including democratically elected government leaders have been arrested by the junta, said the AAPP.

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