Over 5,000 Flee Junta Arson Attacks in Upper Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 23 May 2022

Over 5,000 people from Sagaing Region’s Taze Township have been forced to flee their homes since junta troops started torching villages on Friday.

Regime soldiers torched around 500 houses in Phan Khar Zin, Chaung Yoe, Sein Sar and Kabaung Kyaing villages in southern Taze along the road linking Ye-U and Taze, according to residents. 

People who have been displaced by junta raids and lost their homes in arson attacks are in urgent need of relief supplies, said Taze Support Organization (TSO).

“Junta troops torched houses and looted valuables along the road starting with Phan Khar Zin Village. Almost all the houses were burned down in Phan Khar Zin and Chaung Yoe. Apart from the monastery, the whole village of Sein Sar was razed to the ground. We don’t know yet how many houses were burned down in Kabaung Kyaing. Junta troops are still deployed there,” said a member of TSO on Saturday. 

Chaung Yoe is a Burmese-Portuguese settlement with some 1,500 Burmese-Portuguese Christians living in over 350 households. The village boasts a church that is around 130 years old.

“They deliberately torched houses without firing a gunshot. Around 200 junta soldiers came and torched our houses. They detained two villagers and beat them, although they were not severely injured,” said a Chaung Yoe resident. 

Military regime soldiers started torching houses around 7.30am on Friday and left around noon, by which time some 300 houses out of 350 houses were razed. All the finest houses were destroyed, added the villager. 

Another villager said: “We don’t know what to do. They doused houses with gasoline to make sure the houses burned. It rained heavily early that morning, so the fire should not have been that devastating otherwise. Fortunately, the church and school are still intact.” 

Around 180 houses out of some 200 houses were torched in Phan Khar Zin, and all the 65 houses in Sein Sar Village were razed. 

A Phan Khar Zin villager said: “All my belongings, my house, motorbikes, fridge, as well as rice that I have stockpiled to last for a year, were lost in the fire. A battery-powered toy car which I bought for my disabled child just one month ago was also lost in the fire.” 

Locals in southern Taza Township are also struggling with the lack of internet, which was cut off by the regime over three months ago. The only internet access in Sagaing Region is in Monywa, Kale and Shwebo townships, where junta battalions are based.

One Sein Sar villager said: “We have to take shelter in villages which are a little far from junta troops. We have to make do with rice and water donated by the residents of the villages we shelter in. People are helping each other. Like us, other villagers have had to flee to nearby villages.” 

On Saturday, junta troops were deployed at Kabaung Kyaing Village from where they fired mortar shells at Inn Taing Village to the west of Kabaung Kyaing, as well as at the three villages they had torched. 

Chaung Yoe and Sein Sar villages were also raided by junta troops in March. Sein Sar lost nearly 20 houses and religious buildings torched, while Chaung Yoe lost 17 houses and eight chicken farms. 16 houses were also burned down in two other villages. Ten people including women and a child were killed in the March raids, according to locals. 

Apart from torching houses and looting valuables, junta soldiers in Sagaing have also reportedly killed and raped civilians and abducted them for ransom. 

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