Over 50,000 Displaced as Myanmar Regime Column Torches Sagaing Villages

By Hein Htoo Zan 23 May 2023

Myanmar junta forces have burned down at least 20 villages and killed four civilians over the last month in Kantbalu Township, Sagaing Region.

A combined force of around 300 Myanmar military troops from Light Infantry Battalions 361 and 368 and pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia has been raiding villages in the east and south of Kantbalu Township since April 20, causing over 50,000 locals to flee their homes, said villagers and resistance groups.

On the morning of May 17, the regime force entered Nyaung Zin Kyi Village in Kantbalu, firing mortars and light arms at nearby villages.

The same day, regime forces shot and killed a 27-year-old displaced man from Nyaung Paung Yin Village. Two men and a woman were also killed on the same day in an artillery strike by the Kantbalu-based Artillery Battalion 6006.

On May 18, junta soldiers torched Man Kyi Suu Village and nearby villages.

In response to the arson attack, Kantbalu People’s Defense Force (PDF) and other resistance groups attacked the regime column.

“They [junta forces] left Man Kyi Suu Village on Friday and we fought them as they pulled out of the village,” said a member of the Kantbalu Underground Warriors PDF.

The regime force then torched Suu Tat Village, before heading for Bote Kone Village, and came under attack again from the combined force of resistance groups in a battle that lasted for an hour.

“My house was burned down, and they [junta troops] also took away cattle belonging to me and other villagers,” said Daw Hmone, a 62-year-old Suu Tat resident.

The regime column was ambushed again on May 20 and suffered many casualties, according to PDFs, although casualty figures could not be verified. The junta troops then retreated to Bote Kone Village, where they torched many homes.

“On the following day, the junta column headed southwest and is now based in Min Ywar Taw Village. They are very cruel and now they are preparing for another arson attack as they cannot beat us,” said a fighter from Kantbalu PDF.

He added that tens of thousands of residents from a dozen villages have fled their homes. Some 50,000 civilians have been displaced and are in urgent need of food and medicine, according to volunteers helping the refugees.

On May 21, the junta column also burned down Pyit Tine Htaung Village in Sabei Nant Thar village tract, which is located beside the Shwebo–Myitkyina Road.