Myanmar military troops killed nearly 30 civilians in the east of Kantbalu Township and the west of Kyunhla Township in Kantbalu district, Sagaing Region over the past two weeks amid escalating fighting with resistance groups, local defense forces and residents said.
The clashes between junta troops and defense forces broke out in the last week of August, with the Myanmar military launching both air and ground attacks against villages.
On Aug. 24, the military started launching air strikes on some villages in the border area where Kantbalu, Kawlin and Kyunhla townships meet, leaving villagers dead, including a 6-year-old boy and a pregnant woman from Thit Saint Kone Village, Kantbalu Township.
On Sept. 2, at least two dozen bodies were found at the monastery in Tal Pin Seik Village, Kyunhla Township, according to residents, and local defense forces confirmed the victims were the same people who were arrested by the military between Aug. 25 and Aug. 28, said a member of the Red Eagle Kanbalu People’s Defense Force (PDF).
The military launched further air attacks on Aung Chan Thar, Lat Khote Pin and Koe Htaung Bo village tracts, and deployed army columns in the area. During these operations military troops torched several villages, he added.
Local PDF groups said the death toll could increase as bodies are usually found for several days after the military leaves an area it has controlled. They said they had heard reports of additional casualties, but could not yet confirm them.
The PDFs fought back, however, arresting two captains and a lieutenant from the junta’s military on Aug. 28. Within two weeks, the junta’s military had suffered at least 40 casualties in clashes with local resistance forces.
This did not prevent the Myanmar military from targeting civilian areas, however. About 200 houses were torched in Kyunhla Township alone in just four days, from Sept. 1-4, according to the Kyunhla Activists Group.
U Nay Zin Latt, the elected MP for Kantbalu Township and a member of the Committee Representing Pyidaungsu Hluttaw, which was formed after last year’s coup by ousted lawmakers, said such murders by the Myanmar military were totally unacceptable.
He said that even the PDF groups, which were organized very recently, can distinguish a legitimate military target from a civilian area, but the military was targeting civilian areas that should not be considered combat zones.
“There were some operation plans that we have avoided even though we would have had a competitive edge over the enemy. But the military is killing civilians deliberately,” U Nay Zin Latt, who now also serves as an operations commander of Kant Balu Battalion 2, a local PDF in Kantbalu district.
At least three military columns are now deployed in Kantbalu district. They have arrested at least 100 civilians and taken them as prisoners of war, according to the local PDFs.
At least 10 villages were torched in Kantbalu district alone during the two-week period and more than 40,000 people in total have fled the area, residents said.