Junta regains control of still-smoldering city in Myanmar

The center is burning and filled with bodies after a 10-day fight for control, residents said.
By RFA Burmese
2024.03.15
Junta regains control of still-smoldering city in Myanmar Kani in Sagaing region burning on March 13, 2024, a day after junta troops regained control of the city.
Pyae Aung Naing

A 10-day battle in central Myanmar has left one city in ashes, residents told Radio Free Asia on Friday. 

Fighting between resistance groups, or People’s Defense Forces, and junta soldiers began in Sagaing region’s Kani city on March 2, locals said. 

Sagaing, an agricultural region in the heart of Myanmar’s dry zone, has faced the brunt of junta attacks since Myanmar’s 2021 coup began. 

Civilians region-wide have been subject to indiscriminate arson, arrests, shelling from heavy weapons and raids as rebel groups have proliferated in Sagaing’s central plains and neighboring Chin state. 

People’s Defence Forces have been trying to capture Kani since March 2, focusing attacks on the city’s police station, school and administrative office where junta troops are stationed. Kani city is the capital of Kani township. 

The result has been a city in ruin and full of bodies. The amount of casualties is still unknown since much of the city remains inaccessible, according to one local who wished to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals. 

“Much of inner Kani city has already been destroyed. There are corpses of civilians and junta soldiers. Civilians’ houses were burned down there,” he said. “We found that the houses of revolutionaries were torched initially. That’s all we can say at the moment.”

A People’s Defense Force soldier fighting in urban Kani told RFA the junta air force dropped 500-pound bombs during the battle.

After the rebel group captured a hill near Kani on March 7, the junta’s army retaliated with helicopters and fighter jets. The air force repeatedly targeted urban areas and rural villages around the city, according to defense force officials.

Junta troops regained control of the city and nearby Nyaung Pin Wun village on March 12, but both sustained severe fire damage in the following days, residents said.

Sagaing’s junta spokesperson told RFA that the arson was likely a defense tactic used by rebel armies.

“It is also possible that the burning was started by the People's Defense Forces to disrupt the army. It could cause the army to not be able to chase [resistance fighters] while they were fleeing,” Nyunt Win Aung explained. He declined to comment on villagers' accusations that bombs had been dropped by his administration’s army.

“Now the army can control the city completely. The People’s Defense Forces are no longer there. They fled again. If the people live in the city, they can come back.”

Kani has been deserted since fighting broke out, and nearly 10,000 residents from nearby villages have also fled to safety, according to the residents.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.

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