Myanmar junta forces engaged in a fresh spree of war crimes and crimes against humanity in a recent raid on an anti-regime resistance stronghold in Sagaing Region, killing elderly and disabled persons—including a chronically ill patient—not to mention looting properties and burning down two villages.
Without any provocation, a military detachment of more than 100 troops including pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militia members attacked and raided Kyauk Tine and adjacent Kyi Su village in the south of Kanbalu Township on Nov. 22.
In the raid, female villager Daw Pyar, 94, the eldest resident of Kyauk Tine, and another female senior citizen, Daw Htoo, 78, who was congenitally disabled, were burned alive and their houses were razed by regime forces, according to family members and other residents of the village.
The two were killed in their houses after being left behind by fleeing family members. Most of the village’s over 2,000 residents had to flee their houses the previous night after being tipped off that a military detachment had arrived in a village nearby.
“We left her behind at the house as we thought junta forces wouldn’t kill a person as old as my mom,” Daw Pyar’s son told The Irrawaddy on Friday.
However, the skeleton of the victim, who was unable to see, hear or move, was found in the burnt house after the junta arson attack. The regime forces looted the houses in the village before the arson attack, the son said.
“I believe junta forces intentionally burned my mom alive as they stole an electronic device near her before burning the house. They could definitely see my mom on the bed when they stole the device near her,” he said.
The victim’s family lost both of their two houses, which were among 180 of the village’s 370 homes to be burned down by regime forces.
In the raid, 35-year-old villager Ko Kyaw Zin Oo, who suffered chronic hepatitis, was killed by regime forces at his house, residents said.
Ko Kaung (name changed for security reasons), a 25-year-old resident who was involved in cremating the bodies of the victims, told The Irrawaddy that the ill man who had been left behind by the fleeing villagers was stabbed in the abdomen and beaten on the head until he died by regime forces, who had tied him in a deck chair at his house.
Previously, junta forces mainly arrested and killed young people, especially young men, during raids, accusing them of belonging to People’s Defense Force (PDF) groups.
However, rights groups say the number of elderly people killed during junta raids is increasing, with dozens of cases recorded across the country this year as regime forces conduct indiscriminate attacks and arbitrary killings of civilians in their operations against PDFs and ethnic armed organizations (EAOs).
During a raid on nearby Mon Taing Pin Village in Ye-U Township on May 11, regime forces murdered 29 detained villagers—all the men in the village who were aged under 60, and therefore perceived as a possible threat.
A senior citizen, aged 80, was seriously injured after being shot in the shoulder by soldiers while fleeing the junta raid on Kyauk Tine, and two local resistance fighters who tried to help residents put out fires set by the military troops were shot dead in a junta ambush.
Following the raid, regime forces continued their rampage, burning 600 out of around 1,000 houses in adjacent Kyi Su Village, which is home to over 5,000 people, mostly Muslims. A resident was killed and another young villager injured after being shot.
Before the arson attack, the regime forces also looted houses in Kyi Su Village. On July 18, around 300 houses in the village burned down following a regime air raid.
In the July raid, nine Muslim villager detainees were killed and burned by the regime forces in the compound of the village monastery, said residents and Kyauk Tine villager Ko Kaung, who also helped cremate the victims.
The victims had been stabbed and had their throats slit before being burned, he said.
Before the arson attacks on Nov. 22, the regime forces stole all property of any value belonging to the residents of Kyauk Tine and Kyi Su villages including livestock, furniture and electronic accessories as well as agriculture machinery and equipment, according to the residents.
In the past, regime forces and Pyu Saw Htee pro-regime militia members from nearby Aung Tharyar Village have also raided and looted nearby villages when the military detachment assigned to the township faced ration shortages.
“They [regime soldiers and militia members] stole anything valuable that they wanted. And they burned down the empty houses. The militia members even stole chemical fertilizer for their farmlands,” Ko Kaung told The Irrawaddy.
Residents of Kyauk Tine Village, whose main livelihood is agriculture, have faced difficulty working the land, as farmers are often attacked by militia members from pro-regime Aung Tharyar Village while out in the fields.
Most of their farmlands are located near the pro-regime village, Ko Kaung said.
“Now, we are not able to farm as all our agriculture machinery equipment and cows have been stolen,” he said.
After their raids on the two villages, the regime forces and militia members made money by selling three truckloads of stolen cows, Ko Kaung said.
Other reasons for the raids
Young villager Ko Kaung said that in addition to wanting to steal valuables there was another possible reason for the junta’s raid and arson attack; he believed it was a preemptive strike aimed at preventing potential opposition to military rule and attacks on the pro-regime village.
They also want to stop civilians from supplying the resistance forces, he said.
“The military junta is afraid of losing to the people’s revolution. But they are already losing. So, they are inhumanely and indiscriminately killing civilians, including senior citizens,” said Ko Kaung.
He added that the junta is now treating all civilians as the enemy.
Ko Kaung, who also lost his house in the junta arson attack, said, “The regime forces are deliberately killing all people, whether they are opposing the junta’s rule or not. Our deaths shouldn’t be useless. So, I have decided to die while fighting back against the regime.”