In its continuous spree of war crimes and crimes against humanity, Myanmar’s military regime burned down 38,383 houses in 12 states and regions from May 2021 till November this year, according to independent research group Data For Myanmar (DFM).
Sagaing and Magwe regions, the strongholds of armed resistance to the junta, suffered the heaviest damage, with regime forces committing daily arson attacks on civilian homes.
From May 2021 to November 2022, Sagaing Region suffered the most with some 27,496 houses torched, while neighboring Magwe Region lost 7,818 civilian buildings to junta arson attacks, stated DFM in its latest report, released on December 10. An estimated 1,475 houses in Chin State were also destroyed.
In Sagaing alone, regime arson attacks were reported in 32 out of 37 townships, said DFM. Four of those townships: Khin-U, Pale, Kantbalu and Taze, suffered the highest number of arson attacks, with each township losing around 2,200 homes.
Local residents and People’s Defense Forces (PDF) told The Irrawaddy recently that regime forces and pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia are intentionally burning down villages in Sagaing and Magwe without any provocation.
Before torching houses, the Myanmar military also loots the properties of any items of value including livestock, furniture and electronic accessories, as well as agriculture machinery and equipment, said residents who have witnessed villages being looted.
During the raids, junta soldiers have killed not only resistance fighters but civilians they encountered including senior citizens, children and disabled people.
Several thousand people in Sagaing and Magwe are currently displaced by raids and arson attacks, said PDFs and civil society groups. They are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance.
On December 3, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said that the number of people internally displaced since last year’s coup has topped 1.1 million.
UNOCHA’s humanitarian operations have been hampered by fighting, tight security, restricted access and threats against aid workers, added UNOCHA in a report issued December 3.
Amid calls from the international community, including the UN, for an end to all forms of violence, the junta has brazenly continued to commit atrocities including burning people alive, arbitrary torture and killing of civilians, extrajudicial killings of resistance detainees, using civilians as human shields, artillery and airstrikes on residential areas, looting and burning houses and acts of sexual violence.
As of Monday, 2,572 people had been killed by the junta and 16,547 people, including elected government leaders, arrested or detained since the coup, said the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a rights group monitoring deaths and arrests.