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March 2, 2024

Troops capture 25 youths returning to their village in Myanmar’s Sagaing region

A group of 25 youths from Sagaing region’s Shwebo township has been captured by junta troops, according to locals.

The young men, mostly aged between 13 and 20, fled Tha But Taw village due to fighting between junta forces and local People’s Defense Forces (PDFs). They ran into a military column of around 80 troops as they returned to check on the situation there on Sunday.

The troops took them to Yone Thar village on the other side of the Mu River and they have not been released, a resident — who did not want to be named for security reasons — told RFA.

“They were asked to carry military equipment when they were arrested, after that we did not hear anything,” the local said.

“They were fleeing the fighting, but were arrested when they met the military convoy after they came back to see their village’s situation.”

Locals said they did not know if the youths were involved with a local PDF, taken to be used as porters or captured to be used as hostages or human shields.

Tha But Taw village has 200 houses and normally has around 500 residents, who fled before the military column arrived. The troops did not burn houses in the village but stole valuables, according to a local woman, who also asked not to be named.

“We forgot to take our valuables like some gold and hand phones because we were running to escape,” she said.

“All of them were taken and almost all the houses were ransacked. So far, we have not dared to return to the village and I haven’t heard any news about the young men.”

RFA’s calls to the junta spokesman for Sagaing region Aye Hlaing, who is also the region’s Minister for Social Affairs, went unanswered on Tuesday.

Sagaing region has seen fierce fighting between junta troops and PDFs since the military toppled Myanmar’s democratically elected government in a Feb.1, 2021 coup.

In the past 22 months, the region has seen the third highest number of arrests in the country, behind only Yangon and Mandalay, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.

AAPP figures show there have been 16,520 arrests nationwide since last year’s coup, with more than 13,000 people still in detention.

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