Atrocities and Reinforcements: Myanmar Regime Tries to Control Resistance Strongholds

By Nayt Thit ​​​​​​ 17 March 2023

Warning: Graphic Content

Myanmar’s junta is deploying massive reinforcements as it steps up its atrocities during its scorched earth campaign aimed at retaking control of the resistance strongholds of Sagaing Region and Chin and Kayah states.

The military regime has lost control of most of the rural areas in Sagaing, Chin and Kayah, while its forces and officials in the towns also face frequent attacks from resistance forces.

Special task forces deployed by the junta have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity against both resistance fighters and civilians including massacres, the beheadings of victims and the use of sexual violence, while also employing indiscriminate air and artillery strikes and looting and burning villages.

The regime atrocities are aimed at deterring civilians from becoming involved in or supporting the resistance movement.

The much greater use of atrocities has been reported recently in Sagaing, as well as Kayah and southern Shan states, and comes after the military regime imposed martial law in February in 40 more townships across four regions and four states including Sagaing and Kayah and Chin states.

Since martial law was imposed, an estimated 5,000 junta reinforcements have been sent to Sagaing and Chin and Kayah States, the strongholds of resistance to the military dictatorship, according to local People’s Defense Forces (PDF) and ethnic armed organizations.

Military observers said the regime’s deployment of more troops seemed to be a desperate attempt to regain control of the resistance strongholds.

Thet Htar Maung, a local military analyst, said he expected more intense fighting in Chin and Kayah states, because the resistance fighters in those regions are better-trained.

“The fighting will be bloodier and more frequent,” he said.

Since February 23, intense clashes have been reported in many townships in Kayah State and the neighboring townships of Pinlaung and Pekon in southern Shan State.

The bodies of villagers and a Buddhist monk who were among 22 people killed by junta troops during a raid on Nam Name Village in Pinlaung Township, southern Shan State on March 11, 2023. Photo/ KNDF

PDFs and the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF), the Karenni Army and the Pa-O National Defense Force have been fighting up to 12 Myanmar military columns totaling 2,000 soldiers which have been raiding villages and the forest.

Another 1,000 junta reinforcements have been sent from Mandalay to Sagaing Region in recent days, where several military columns are raiding and torching villages daily in a number of townships.

Fierce clashes have also taken place in Chin State in western Myanmar over the last week.

A combined force of fighters from the Chin National Army (CNA) and Chinland Defense Force (CDF) has been battling junta reinforcements sent from Sagaing’s Kale Township and traveling in a convoy of 30 vehicles, including two armored cars, along the Tedim-Falam Road, according to Salai Htet Ni, the spokesperson of the Chin National Front, the CNA’s political wing.

Fighting also broke out on Thursday in Mindat Township, southern Chin State, when CNA and CDF fighters attacked a regime convoy of 80 vehicles sent from Magwe Region and traveling the Mindat-Kyaukhtu Road.

Days before the arrival of the convoy, five junta fighter jets conducted airstrikes between Magwe Region’s Kyaukhtu and Mindat without any provocation, said Salai Htet Ni.

Terrifying escalation of junta atrocities

On March 11, Myanmar junta troops massacred 22 civilians including three Buddhist monks during a raid on Nam Name Village in Pinlaung Township, southern Shan State.

Having occupied a hill near the village on March 9, the junta soldiers raided Nam Name on March 11 while also shelling the village.

Locals and resistance fighters retrieve the bodies of slain Tar Taing villagers including women who were killed and dumped by junta troops near Nyaung Yin Village in Myinmu Township, Sagaing Region on March 2, 2023.     / supplied

The following day, resistance fighters found the bodies of 22 people, including three monks, who had been shot dead at the village monastery. The resistance said that 11 more village residents who had sheltered at the monastery during the raid are also missing.

Pro-regime Telegram channel Ko Thet shared photos of some of the victims, describing them as PDF and KNDF fighters killed by regime soldiers in Nam Name. Blood can be seen dripping from the victims in the photos.

Regime spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun said via-military owned media that PDF fighters were captured in the raid along with weapons.

The Ko Thet Telegram channel has since removed the photos of the victims and accused the KNDF and PDFs of massacring them.

In an online press conference held on March 16 by the human rights ministry of Myanmar’s civilian National Unity Government, Dr. Ye Zaw, a doctor in charge of Kayah State’s medics, said that he had seen the bodies of the Nam Name victims and that most of the victims had been shot multiple times.

Some of the victims had broken limbs and head injuries, indicating that they had been tortured before being killed.

(Left), The decapitated body of a local resistance member. (Right) A resistance member’s head hangs on a tree where it was left by junta troops near Than Bo Village in Sagaing’s Khin-U Township on March 13, 2023.  / CJ

Another junta special task force of around 100 soldiers killed and beheaded 20 resistance members and massacred 16 civilian detainees, including three woman who were raped before being killed, during a series of raids from February 23 to March 15 in Ayadaw, Myinmu and Sagaing townships in Sagaing Region.

On Monday, a Myanmar military detachment shot dead a resistance detainee and beheaded another during an operation in Sagaing’s Khin-U Township, according to local sources.

Regarding the regime’s escalating offensives, the spokesperson for the Karenni military central information committee, Khu Nye Reh, said that the resistance would fight back as best as they can.

“There has to be defense if there’s an offensive and people will have to suffer. But I want to encourage them not to feel bad and to stay with us till the regime is toppled and we get the federal democracy we all dream of,” he said.