Myanmar junta forces burn down 132 houses after firefight in small village

Sann-myo village once had 190 houses, but now only about 30 remain after second arson attack in 30 days.
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Myanmar junta forces burn down 132 houses after firefight in small village Burnt structures in Sann-myo village, Gagnaw township, Magway region, Myanmar, Dec. 21, 2021.

Security forces loyal to Myanmar’s military junta this week burned down 132 houses after a firefight at a village in the central Magway region, the second arson attack in the village in 30 days, residents of the village told RFA.

Sann-myo village lies in Gangaw township, in the northwest portion of the region. It once had more than 190 houses, but after Tuesday’s attack only about 30 homes remain. Junta forces previously attacked the town on Dec. 21, destroying around 28 houses.

The arson attack followed a firefight between junta forces and the local People’s Defense Force (PDF), one of several loosely tied militia organizations that arose following the Feb. 1 coup that ousted the country’s democratically elected government in favor of military rule.

“About 40 or 50 troops came into the north side of the village firing their guns. They used heavy weapons and automatic weapons as well. The village people had to flee to the south,” a resident of Sann-myo, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.

Other villagers told RFA that the junta soldiers began setting fire to the houses. One resident was wounded by gunfire during the fighting.

Another Sann-myo villager who lost his house in the attack told RFA he was totally devastated.

“Can you imagine how I feel? I am 33 years old, and I have worked hard all my life to build this house with every single kyat I was able to save,” the now-homeless villager said.

“It’s totally burnt down, not even a year after it was built. I have no words to express my sorrow,” he said, adding that the house was worth between 10 and 15 million kyat (U.S. $5,600 to $8,400).

Up to 1,000 villagers who fled their homes during the attack have sought shelter in the surrounding forests and in nearby villages, sources said.

Another now-homeless Sann-myo villager told RFA on condition of anonymity that those who fled now face food and clothing shortages.

“I just want to cry and cry because now I have no home to return to. I just want to cry, and I am so furious for what they did,” she said.

“We will all have a lot of short-term problems. We have no place to live right now, and we might have to build a hut in the forest. We had to escape in a hurry, and we could not bring much with us. We have no tarps for shelter and do not have enough to eat or drink, but at least we managed to bring a few blankets with us,” she said, adding that her house was a semi-pucca structure worth about 20 million kyat.

Life in Sann-Myo since the coup has made the villagers fearful and anxious, another villager who requested anonymity, told RFA.

“The main thing is that we will only be able to sleep well at night and live well during the day after the dictatorship ends. We cannot live in fear and insecurity every day,” she said. 

RFA attempted to contact the junta’s deputy information minister, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, for comment on the arson attack, but several phone calls went unanswered. 

The minister previously denied that the military has had any involvement in arson attacks on civilian homes that are frequently reported in the Sagaing region and Chin state. 

Data for Myanmar, a group dedicated to research in the country’s political development that has been documenting the effects of the coup and its aftermath, told RFA earlier this month that a total of 1,963 houses in 90 villages across the country were destroyed in arson attacks. Of these, more than 400 were burnt in the Magway region alone, they said.

The figures do not include the homes lost in Tuesday’s arson attacks on Sann-myo.

Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.


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