This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.
More than 20,000 locals abandoned their villages in Sagaing region’s Khin-U township as Myanmar’s military intensified its offensive against local People’s Defense Forces.
The offensive comes just a week after the junta carried out an air strike on a village in Sagaing’s Kanbalu township during the opening ceremony of a public administration building, killing an estimated 200 of the tract’s 300 inhabitants. The region has been a hotspot of resistance to junta rule and the center of some of the worst fighting since the military seized power in a Feb. 1, 2021 coup.
A column of around 100 troops staged a dawn raid on Myin Daung village on Wednesday, killing five defense force members, according to a PDF official who declined to be named. The defense force responded by detonating mines and exchanging gunfire with junta forces.
A resident of nearby Aung Thar said that after the battle, the junta column shelled other villages in Khin-U township, destroying a monastery and burning down three houses in his village.
He added that five men who were farming outside the village were taken by troops to act as human shields when they left Aung Thar village.
A resident of Myin Daung, who also requested anonymity, said thousands of residents of nearby villages fled their homes
“There are more than 10 villages to the south of Myin Daung with a population of about 18,000 people,” the local said.
“Along with the people leaving villages to the north there will be more than 20,000 people fleeing.”
A People’s Defense Force member who also declined to give his name told RFA that 21 villages are now empty.
RFA called Sagaing region junta spokesperson Aye Hlaing but no one answered.
In October, the United Nations announced that at least 500,000 people have fled conflict in Sagaing since the coup.