About 42 civilians have been killed in Saging Region from April 30 to May 3, with resistance forces and regime troops blaming each other for some of the deaths.
On May 3, about nine civilians were killed while sheltering in a Buddhist religious building in Budalin Township’s Oakpho Village.
“Regime forces and pro-military militia shot in the head nine elderly civilians who were not able to run, in Oakpho Village,” said Yan Gyi Aung, a battalion commander with the resistance group Maha Bandula.
The civilians were shot after regime forces were attacked by resistance forces using mines.
Also on May 2, regime forces killed a civilian and set fire to Khin-U Township’s Inn Pat Village, burning down 200 houses.
“A 47-year-old man in poor health who was left alone in the village was killed by regime forces and pro-military militia, and they burned down the village,” said a resistance fighter from Khin-U.
About nine civilians were killed in Shwe Bo Township—three were killed in an artillery strike on Seik Khun Village and six were shot dead by regime forces in Nyaung Pin Thar Village on May 2.
Junta-controlled newspapers reported on May 3 that 23 people in Myin Mu and Chaung Oo townships were killed on April 30 and May 1 by local resistance forces known as People’s Defence Forces (PDFs).
The report said eight men and two women accused of being informers were arrested by PDF members and killed in a cemetery. It said their bodies were burned in Padai Village in Myinmu Township on April 30.
It also said another eight men and five women from Kin Mon Htaw Village of Chaung-U Township were killed by PDF members on May 1 on suspicion of being informers.
However, local resistance fighters rejected the accusations.
A resistance fighter from Myinmu Township said, “It is certain that the resistance groups didn’t do it. We haven’t heard anything about that incident. The military council is spreading fake news to turn people against us.”
A PDF member from Chaung U Ttownship said Kin Mon Htaw Village was a stronghold of a pro-regime Pyu Saw Htee militia group and they had no idea about the killings there until the regime reported them in its media.
“There’s no way we did it; we are far too busy fighting and avoiding regime forces,” he said.
The Irrawaddy has not been able to independently verify the claims made by either side.
Sagaing is Myanmar’s largest region and an anti-regime stronghold. The regime’s spokesman recently admitted that the junta does not control the region, especially rural areas, where residents took up arms last year.
In response, the junta retaliates using airstrikes and artillery during clearance operations. Apart from extrajudicial killings and arbitrary arrests, troops have raided villages and looted property before torching whole villages, claiming they are harboring PDF fighters.
From the coup until the end of April, junta forces burned down at least 11,417 civilian houses across the country with Sagaing Region suffering the heaviest damage with around 7,503 houses torched, according to independent research group Data for Myanmar.
Despite the regime’s heavy attacks and atrocities, clashes between junta troops and local resistance groups in the region are reported nearly every day.