How Sagaing is at Forefront of Revolution Against Myanmar’s Junta

By Nayt Thit ​​​​​​ 15 October 2022

Daily ambushes and attacks on Myanmar’s regime targets have put Sagaing Region at the center of the armed revolution against military rule.

Following the 2021 coup, the revolution started in Sagaing when anti-regime protesters took up improvised firearms and old-fashioned hunting rifles to stop junta troops killing civilians during a crackdown in Kale, which has a mixed Bamar and Chin population, on March 28 last year. ​

In March last year, the regime escalated crackdowns, killing hundreds of peaceful demonstrators across the country, including in Yangon and Mandalay.

By April 2, 2021, a prolonged clash was reported in Yinmabin Township, Sagaing Region, when residents with improvised weapons fought nearly 100 troops attempting to raid Thapyay Aye village, where a protest leader lived.

On April 7 last year, residents in Taze Township used slingshots, air guns and improvised firearms to fight regime forces arriving in seven vehicles to break up a demonstration of tens of thousands in the town.

At least 11 civilians were killed and more than 25 injured by the regime forces using automatic firearms and sniper rifles.

Palchaung village in Taze Township, Sagaing Region, after a junta raid in February. : CJ

Now sprawling Sagaing, which straddles the central plains and has no experience of armed rebellion, has become a resistance hub.

Many resistance groups have acquired automatic firearms and upgraded improvised weapons and explosives.

They are increasingly attacking army outposts and police stations in the large region.

An estimated 12 troops are being killed daily in raids, mine ambushes and drone attacks. In upper Sagaing, the Kachin Independence Army is cooperating with resistance groups to attack regime forces.

Outside the towns, the junta has lost control. But regime bases and junta-controlled government departments and offices in towns are increasingly being attacked by urban resistance groups.

The region has reported the second-highest number of clashes with junta forces after Karen State, which had reported over 6,000 with the armed wings of the Karen National Union and their resistance allies by September.

As a restive region, Sagaing has suffered the heaviest regime atrocities with several massacres, arbitrary killings, arson and artillery attacks on civilian targets, airstrikes and looting and acts of sexual violence.

Internet and mobile connections have been blocked in several Sagaing townships since last year and some highways have been destroyed by the regime, stopping food, trade and medical supplies.

By August 25, an estimated 38,434 houses have been burned down by junta forces across the country since the coup, according to Data for Myanmar, an independent research group that monitors the junta.

Arson attacks in Sagaing Region. / Data for Myanmar

Sagaing has suffered the heaviest arson damage with around 20,153 houses torched by junta forces. Neighboring Magwe Region, another resistance stronghold, has lost around 5,418 properties in regime arson attacks.

By September 26, an estimated 1,017,000 people across the country have been displaced by conflict and violence since the coup, according to the United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef).

More than half of those displaced are from Sagaing Region, accounting for 545,200 people, Unicef reported.

On Saturday, an estimated 12 civilians and 20 resistance fighters were killed by two junta jet fighters and two Russian-made MI-35 helicopters and foot soldiers during a raid on a people’s defense force training camp and nearby Nay Pu Kone village in Wetlet Township in Sagaing Region.

An estimated 13 civilians, including seven children, were killed in Depayin Township in the region on September 16 when two MI-35 helicopters and soldiers airlifted by helicopters attacked a school with 200 children at Let Yat Kone village.

Amid junta atrocities, the resistance forces in Sagaing become more united and relentlessly attack regime targets.

“We had a chance to enjoy a taste of democracy during the past five years. We know the country will return to the dark ages under this military dictatorship due to the coup. So we found firearms to fight back,” Ko Nway Oo, a founder of the Civil Defense and Security Organization Myaung, which has been fighting the regime in Sagaing since early 2021, told The Irrawaddy.

He said Sagaing’s residents have come to sympathize with ethnic minorities who have suffered from military atrocities for many years.

“That is another reason why we are fighting to root out the military dictatorship as we don’t want other people across the country to suffer under military rule anymore.”