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March 2, 2024

Junta troops torch nearly 400 houses in a Sagaing region township

The Myanmar junta’s brutal arson campaign continues in the country’s northern Sagaing region, with at least 385 houses torched in Khin-U township since the end of last week.

Two military columns raided seven villages between Friday and Sunday morning. On Monday they turned their attention to Saw Gyi village in the north of Khin-U burning more homes.

“This morning they got into the village by shelling it,” a resident told RFA Burmese. “Saw Gyi village was on fire at around 10.45 a.m. and everyone was fleeing. One junta column spent the night at Ma Daung Hla village. The junta column from the south of Khin-U reached the [government] workers’ housing in the east of [the township] this morning,” said the local, who declined to give his name for safety reasons. He said it was still unclear how many houses had been burned down in Saw Gyi.

The military column that raided the southern part of Khin-U township also occupied Paung Hle Kone village on Nov. 18 and 19, burning down 136 houses. A 70-year-old woman who was unable to leave was burned to death and a 50-year-old man died of a heart attack following an artillery blast, according to locals.

On Nov. 20, troops burned down 90 houses in Let Pan Gyi village. They also torched 13 houses from Let Yet Kone village in Shwebo township, the scene of a junta attack on a school in September that the UN described as a war crime.

In the north of Khin-U township a further 146 homes were burned down in four villages, according to locals. RFA has not been able to confirm the claims.

Sagaing’s State Administration Council Spokesman Aye Hlaing, who is also the region’s social affairs minister, told RFA he was not aware of the incidents. He said the internet had been cut by the destruction of communications towers in Khin-U township and phone lines were also unreliable.

A total of 1,856 houses from 47 villages in Khin-U township were torched by junta troops between the coup on Feb.1, 2021 and the end of Oct., 2022, according to residents and local People’s Defense Forces (PDFs). They said 218 people, including PDF members, were killed.

Some 612,400 residents of Sagaing region were forced to abandon their homes due to the conflict over the previous 21 months, according to a UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) report on Oct. 31.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Written in English by Mike Firn.

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