The Myanmar junta-backed militia Pyu Saw Htee has abducted nine women in Sagaing Region’s Kantbalu Township for ransom, alleging that the women sheltered internally displaced persons (IDPs).
Around 150 junta troops and Pyu Saw Htee militia from Myedu and Hmawtaw villages raided Waryoneboke Village in Kantbalu on Sunday, arresting nine female villagers for harboring IDPs from Kyeesu Village. The women were taken to a Pyu Saw Htee base in Myedu Village.
“A Pyu Saw Htee leader who is a disciple of the monk U Wasawa told us to pay a ransom of 200,000 kyats (around US$85) for each woman,” said a local resident.
U Wasawa is a member of the ultranationalist Association for Protection of Race and Religion, better known by its Burmese acronym Ma Ba Tha. The radical monk has formed militias in Kyunhla, Kantbalu and Taze townships in Sagaing since November last year, with their numbers estimated at over 4,000 people, including more than 100 women, according to locals.
The kidnapped women are still being held at Myedu Village. Family members have refused to talk to the media out of fear for the safety of the detainees.
“Villagers dare not talk as Pyu Saw Htee and junta troops make a strong presence in those villages,” said a resident.
Military regime soldiers raided Kyeesu Village in southern Kantbalu on July 18 and 19, using two helicopter gunships. Twelve bodies were found after the raid. Some 300 buildings including houses, a monastery and two mosques were torched. The raid forced the villagers to flee to Waryoneboke Village.
Villagers in western Kantbalu have also been threatened by U Wasawa to join Pyu Saw Htee groups.
On July 27, a Mi-17 transport helicopter from Northwestern Command unloaded arms at U Wasawa’s monastery for Pyu Saw Htee fighters, said residents. The Irrawaddy could not independently confirm those reports.
“All the Pyu Saw Htee militias in Kantbalu wear uniforms so we can’t differentiate them from junta soldiers,” said a Kantbalu resident.
Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun told a recent press conference that it has only trained and armed villagers at their request to form people’s militias for the safety of locals. He denied that the regime has formed Pyu Saw Htee groups. Forming people’s militias is legal under Myanmar’s existing laws.
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