Myanmar Villagers Battle Junta Troops to Free Detainees

By The Irrawaddy 19 April 2021

At least nine villages in Kani Township, Sagaing Region, have emptied following a confrontation between junta forces and anti-regime fighters on the Monywa-Kalewa highway.

The clash near Lapoh village on Sunday was the fiercest since April 15, said Kani resident Ko Moe. The clash broke out after Kani resistance fighters stopped a convoy of military trucks carrying detained anti-regime protesters from Mingin Township.

“We shot with percussion firearms and, as we were large in numbers, they called in reinforcements. Many more military trucks from Monywa and Kalewa arrived. Two more civilians died yesterday and the fighting continued until this morning,” Ko Moe told The Irrawaddy on Monday morning.

Residents said 10 civilians, including a Buddhist monk, had died in fighting since April 15. The Irrawaddy was unable to independently verify the numbers.

On April 15 civilian volunteers inspected vehicles on the Monywa-Kalewa road in response to reports that junta forces were using the road to take detainees to Kalewa and bring reinforcements to Kani.

A vehicle carrying a man and woman turned back from the villagers’ barrier and drove away at around noon on April 15. Volunteers chased the car on motorbikes and the man, who was reportedly an army major, shot at them. The pair abandoned their car and ran into woodland and villagers set the vehicle on fire.

Troops later arrived from Monywa, leading to clashes.

“Since then, the security forces have been detaining people and we stopped them, leading to more clashes. Villagers from all along the road have come to intercept vehicles. At least 10 civilians have died. The military has also suffered casualties but we don’t know the exact numbers,” said a Kani resident on condition of anonymity.

Villagers along the road have now fled their homes after junta forces used heavy arms.

The security forces are currently deployed in Tarawkyin village. They also took people’s rice and killed chickens for food in Chaungma village, said Kani residents.

The military council said on Sunday that a member of the security forces died and three were injured in clashes on the road in Sagaing.

Kale, Kani, Mingin, Kale, Pale, Salingyi, Taze and Tamu townships in the region have seen villagers fighting junta forces with improvised weapons, including homemade rifles, air guns and grenades.

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