Myanmar villagers left homeless and hungry after pro-junta forces’ arson attacks

More than 4,000 people had to flee suddenly when the military and an affiliated militia torched their villages
By RFA Burmese
2022.08.24
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Myanmar villagers left homeless and hungry after pro-junta forces’ arson attacks The scene in Hlay Khoke village, Yesagyo township, Magway region, after it was torched by junta’s forces, August 13, 2020.
Yay Lal Kyun News

More than 4,000 villagers who lost their homes when the military torched their villages in strife-torn central region of Magway this month are suffering from a lack of food and are unsure how they will be able to rebuild their lives, the villagers told RFA.

Since August 13, soldiers, along with members of the Pyu Saw Htee militias supporting the junta, have burned down 830 homes in the villages of Hlay Khoke and Nga Ta Yaw, in Magway’s Yesagyo township.  

Now many of the villagers are homeless and have nothing to live on. 

“We couldn't bring anything with us. All the families had to run away,” a 60-year-old woman from Nga Ta Yaw village, who lost everything, told RFA’s Burmese Service on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“I couldn't take anything. We had to run for our lives. My family lost everything in the fires. We now live in a monastery, and I don't have any food. I'm living because the monks are feeding me. I couldn't take anything. I had a house and a little shop. They were all burned down," she said.“ 

Another resident of the same village said he hopes people will offer the villagers help.

“They first started firing at the village with all kinds of weapons, including heavy weapons, in the morning,” he said.

“Our people had to flee from the village. After we fled, they started burning the houses. The difficulty for us now is that we have no place to live. We have almost nothing to eat. We need help as we all are in deep trouble. I would like to ask our brothers and sisters at home and abroad to send us donations,” he said.

The homeless villagers have fled to anywhere they could find refuge, nearby villages and forests, or the local monastery where they’ve put up makeshift tents, he said. They cannot return because the military and the Pyu Saw Htee still have a presence in the area surrounding the village. Farmers in the area of the burned villages have told RFA that they have been unable to tend to their crops.

Some of the people had no time to prepare an exit and had to flee with only the clothes on their backs, another woman from Nga Ta Yaw told RFA.

“Right now, I have no clothes and no food. We’re facing such hardships and feeling miserable. I can’t help crying because the entire village was razed to the ground,” she said. 

“I wish our side could win. People are facing so many difficulties and so much hardship. The local defense forces gave us encouragement. But at the moment, I am sad because I cannot contribute anything to them as I myself am already in deep trouble,” she said.

ENG_BUR_MagwayArson_08242022.2.jpeg
Smoke rises from the remains of burned homes in Nga Ta Yaw village in Yesagyo township, Magway region, August 17, 2022. Credit: Yay Lal Kyun News

In Hlay Khoke village, which had more than 400 homes, a man and a woman both in their 90s died in a fire started by the pro-junta forces, a resident told RFA.

“They are so low down, being nasty for no reason. Just like the saying, ‘Burning the barn to be rid of the rats,’” he said.

“Between 180 and 200 houses in our village were destroyed in the fire. What is so horrible is that an old couple in their 90s died in the fire, and we were all heartbroken,” he said, adding that the army has blocked the roads and so the refugees have not yet received any aid.

Anger against the military is growing, a woman from Hlay Khoke, and mother of four children, told RFA. 

“We can never forgive them. We will fight this battle until the end whether we are homeless or not. We will fight even without food,” she said.

“I am now a widow, my son and I will join the fight. We have decided to fight against them with whatever weapons we can get our hands on,” she said. “We have now lost our homes. We have nothing to eat and no place to live. … Don’t think that we'll lose our spirit because we don't have a home. We're now even more determined.”

The junta has not yet released any information regarding the events in Hlay Khoke and Nga Ta Yaw villages. Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, the junta’s spokesman, has previously told RFA that their forces did not raid villages nor burn the homes of civilians.

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

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