By THE IRRAWADDY 3 March 2022
Junta forces have torched at least 6,158 civilian homes in the 13 months since the Myanmar military’s coup, mostly in areas where anti-regime resistance is the strongest. Sagaing Region suffered nearly 60 per cent of the damage, according to independent research group Data for Myanmar.
The houses were burned down in 165 places nationwide from February 1, 2021 to March 1 this year, said Data for Myanmar in its latest report.
Fighting between regime forces and People’s Defense Forces (PDF) continues across the country, especially in Chin, Kayah, Karen and Kachin states and Sagaing, Magwe, Mandalay and Yangon regions. The resistance forces use guerrilla tactics and have inflicted heavy casualties on junta troops.
In retaliation, regime forces have increasingly carried out indiscriminate attacks on civilians, including air and artillery strikes, arbitrary killings and massacres, burning people alive, using civilians as human shields, and looting and burning houses.
Junta arson attacks on civilian homes began in May last year, and have intensified in recent months.
Last month alone, 2,882 houses were burned down, which is nearly half of all properties torched since the coup. In January, 1,059 homes were destroyed in arson attacks, while 960 homes were torched in December and 384 houses in November.
The properties were destroyed either in air and artillery strikes or were torched by regime soldiers and pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia.
On Wednesday, Moekaung Village in Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin Township was torched, following clashes between PDFs and junta forces, according to a member of a local PDF who spoke on condition of anonymity.
“The fighting intensified yesterday [on Wednesday] and continued into the night. Junta troops burned some houses and arrested some civilians, too. Some villagers were also injured. People had to flee into the jungle,” he told The Irrawaddy.
Moekaung Village lies just to the north of Thapyayaye Village, which was completely torched in a junta attack on February 28 that also saw two civilians killed.
“An elderly woman in Thapyayaye who couldn’t run away burned to death along with the village homes. A man was shot to death from a helicopter,” said a Yinmabin resident.
At least eleven Thapyayaye villagers were arrested, according to a statement on Thursday from Myauk Yamar PDF.
In February, at least 30 junta soldiers were killed and more than 50 injured during 17 separate clashes with local PDFs, while two PDF fighters died and five were injured, said Myauk Yamar PDF.
“Junta soldiers suffered huge casualties from our guerrilla and mine attacks. We didn’t even need to use bullets. When they lost, they targeted innocent civilians,” added the PDF member.
“They don’t understand how people have to struggle to survive, so they don’t care about the people. They consider the villagers and villages as resistance to them. The villagers homes were burned without reason and people have to restart their lives from zero when their houses are destroyed,” he added.
People from about a dozen villages, including Thapyayaye and Chin Pone villages, in Yinmabin and nearby Kani Township have been forced to flee their homes, according to Yinmabin residents.
In Chin State’s Thantlang, regime forces torched over 1,000 homes in 26 reported attacks since September. 101 houses were burned down over two days on February 25 and 27, said Thantlang Placement Affairs Committee-IDPs, a local organization helping people displaced from Thantlang, in a statement on Tuesday. Mountain-top town Thantlang formerly had around 2,700 houses.
Some 20 houses in Magwe’s Yesagyo Township were also torched by the junta on February 26,after a local PDF reportedly seized a junta-affiliated oil container in the area.