Dozens burned to death in three regions amid junta’s scorched earth campaign — Radio Free Asia

Junta troops have burned more than five dozen civilians since late December in three parts of Myanmar where they have encountered strong armed resistance to military rule, sources in the regions said on Wednesday.

Residents told RFA’s Myanmar service that at least 65 people had been set on fire and killed in the 10 weeks to March 7, including 35 and three in Hpruso and Demoso townships in Kayah state, and five in Gangaw township, Magway region.

In Sagaing area, troops burned alive 10 people in Salingyi township, four in Ye-U township, three in Kalay township and five in Myinmu township, they said.

Anti-junta Karenni State Police (KSP) fighters in Kayah state told RFA that during the same period ‘at least 49 people were burned to death’ in the Moso village of Hpruso , including 45 civilians and four pro-democracy members. Karenni nationalities of paramilitary Defense Forces (KNDF) who operate as border guards in the area.

In one incident on February 24, residents of Kalay township in Sagaing discovered the charred bodies of a woman and her two young children who had been detained by the military the previous day. The father of the two children told RFA that he was only able to identify the remains after seeing his daughter’s earring.

Myanmar’s military has killed at least 1,640 civilians since seizing power in a February 1, 2021 coup and arrested nearly 9,560 others, mostly during peaceful protests against the junta.

The junta has recently launched a series of major offensives against ethnic armed groups and anti-junta paramilitaries of the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) in remote border areas of the country, which have seen troops commit acts of rape, of torture, arson and murder against civilians, according to reports.

In the typical pattern of the conflict, after exchanges of fire with local anti-junta militia fighters, regime troops attack villages suspected of harboring resistance groups and burn all structures after stealing livestock, food and valuables.

Residents of Shwe Bo village in Gangaw township told RFA that a combined force of military troops and members of the pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia shot and killed two people and burned five people during a a raid on February 28.

A villager who spoke on condition of anonymity said atrocities like those in Shwe Bo and elsewhere were driving civilians to armed resistance against the junta, rather than scaring them into submission.

“Villagers know nothing but anger and want to retaliate against it,” he said.

“We could be punished in the future, but for now we will do whatever it takes to get rid of them. We want to see them eliminated either by [the shadow National Unity Government] NUG or any other group.

In Done Taw village in Salingyi township, where the burnt bodies of ten people – including four aged between 14 and 17 – were discovered following a military raid in December, another source who declined to comment to be named told RFA that locals wanted to see the perpetrators. sentenced to death when a civilian government returns to power.

“If the popular government takes control, we want to see the crimes of the junta and of all those who killed innocent people exposed,” he said. “We want to see those responsible for these brutal murders pay for them.”

demand justice

Asked about military arson attacks and reports of civilians being burned to death, the junta’s deputy information minister, General Zaw Min Tun, denied troops were responsible.

“We have no reason to do that when we protect civilians, as it is our duty,” he told RFA.

“In the Sagaing area, terrorist groups calling themselves PDFs are forcing local people to engage in terrorist activities. Many villages in the region have formed militias to protect against the NUG and PDF terrorist groups. The PDF terrorists attack the villages and set them on fire.

However, a surgeon who claimed to have inspected the victims of what was dubbed the “Christmas Eve massacre” of 35 people in the village of Moso in Hpruso township called the killings a “deliberate act of brutal murder by the military in a January 3 press release. conference organized by the NUG.

He described the bodies as having their hands tied behind their backs and their mouths gagged; missing parts of their skulls, genitals and chests; and burned so badly that their internal organs had disintegrated. Some victims are believed to have been killed before being set on fire.

Rights activists and medical experts said those responsible for the burning deaths intended to eliminate evidence of their actions.

Phoe Phyu, a human rights lawyer, told RFA that perpetrators of such atrocities will be prosecuted under Myanmar’s criminal code.

“For now, witness statements and evidence must be collected and then justice must be given to the victims – this is called transitional justice,” he said.

“One day, when a government elected by the people comes to power and assumes its responsibilities, it will open the door to ensuring such transitional justice.”

The NUG has pledged to launch an investigation into the deaths with the help of the international community.

Fresh reports of the number of civilians burned to death by junta troops came as research group Data for Myanmar reported that on Monday the military used arson to destroy a total of 6,719 homes in 186 locations in nine regions and states since last year. blow.

The group, which documents the impact of the conflict in Myanmar, warned in a statement on Wednesday that its report was compiled from publicly available data sources and excluded incomplete records, suggesting that actual figures on military arson may exceed reported data.

Reported by Myanmar Service of RFA. Translated by Ye Kaung Myint Maung. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.

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