Village raid by Myanmar forces leaves 14 civilians, resistance fighters dead

The northwestern region is an anti-junta stronghold and cradle of armed opposition.
By RFA Burmese
2023.07.24
Village raid by Myanmar forces leaves 14 civilians, resistance fighters dead Residents prepare to bury civilians killed by junta troops in Sone Chaung village, Yinmarbin township, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, July 21, 2023.
Citizen journalist

More than a dozen civilians were killed by Myanmar junta forces, with some brutally tortured before being executed, during a six-hour raid on a village in northwestern Sagaing region on July 21, residents said on Monday.

In all, 14 people, including four teenagers and six members of an anti-junta People’s Defense Force, lost their lives during the assault in Yinmarbin township, leaving residents who witnessed the murders in deep distress, the sources said.

The killings occurred when a 100-strong army column raided Sone Chaung village at 2 a.m. on July 21. Among the minors killed were Lwin Moe Tun, Sai Htoo Hseng, Nay Min Tun and Pho Chit, residents said.

Myanmar soldiers also killed four civilians in their 30s — Naing Min, Myo Myint Swe, Pho Aung and Kyaw Zin Tun. The six PDF members executed were Myo Myint Oo, Kyaw Soe, Yan Naing Soe, Htay Zaw, Aung Win Swe and Zaw Win.

The victims were tortured before being killed, said a village resident who found the bodies and who spoke to Radio Free Asia on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

The 10 adults were tied in pairs and shot dead in the southern part of the village, he said. 

“It was a horrible scene,” the local said. “Faces were disfigured, and their [chests] were covered in blood.”

The villager went on to say that soldiers had torn off the skin on one of the PDF member’s legs, hit him in the chest with rifle butts, and appeared to have shot him in the temple at point-blank range.  

Myanmar has been wracked by violence since the military overthrew the elected civilian-led government in a February 2021 coup.  

Sagaing region has been an anti-junta stronghold and cradle of resistance for local PDFs — civilians who have taken up arms to fight the military’s brutal rule. Junta forces have swept through villages across the region to find and punish suspected resistance fighters and their civilian supporters.

Sone Chaung has four communities with more than 2,000 houses and over 7,000 residents who mostly farm to make a living.  

Residents prepare to cremate some of the civilians killed by junta troops in Sone Chaung village, Yinmarbin township, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, July 21, 2023. Credit: Citizen journalist
Residents prepare to cremate some of the civilians killed by junta troops in Sone Chaung village, Yinmarbin township, northwestern Myanmar's Sagaing region, July 21, 2023. Credit: Citizen journalist

‘We are inconsolable’

The military column entered Sone Chaung village from the south and left around 8 a.m., residents said.

Villager Phyu Nu said she believed soldiers were firing into the air when she heard gunshots from the south end around 6:30 a.m.

“Later, we found dead bodies,” she told RFA. “They didn’t fire into the air, but they killed the youths. It’s too cruel. And it’s even more painful because the people who were not involved in the revolution were also killed. The victims were not simply shot dead. We are inconsolable since they were horribly disfigured.”

The villagers said they buried the bodies of eight civilians, who were Sone Chaung residents, near Kyauk Hmaw village to the north on the same day.

Following the raid, junta-controlled state media reported that Myanmar forces killed seven, not six, PDF members and seized weapons during the village raid. 

Villager Tin Oo told RFA that the junta forces made a false accusation about the presence of a PDF camp in Sone Chaung.

“They did this because it is likely that someone such as an informant told them about the village,” he said. “People are frustrated because [the military] did such a thing though there is no PDF.”

The State Administration Council, as the junta regime is known, has not issued a statement on the raid.

RFA could not reach junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comment.

A member of the Chindwin PDF who survived the raid said junta forces intercepted PDF communication signals and were waiting to shoot at them. 

“After being shot and arrested, four of our members were left behind, and the other four escaped with chest wounds,” he said. 

The PDF members did not have time to fight back as they tried to move residents to a safe place amid continuous fire by junta troops.

More than 30 residents who could not escape and were detained by the soldiers were later released when the military column left, villagers said. 

Some Sone Chaung residents who successfully fled have not yet returned because of the killings, they said.

More than 3,800 civilians have been killed across Myanmar since the military coup, according to the Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based rights group. 

Translated by Htin Aung Kyaw for RFA Burmese. Edited by Roseanne Gerin and Matt Reed.

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