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Myanmar junta forces kill dozens in attack on monasteries

The Kachin Independence Army (Brookings Institution/Released)
May 14, 2024

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Myanmar junta forces killed 32 civilians hiding in monasteries, witnesses and insurgent groups told Radio Free Asia, in what if confirmed would be one of the deadliest massacres in recent months of fighting.

A column of junta troops entered Let Htoke Taw village in the central region of Sagaing at around 5 a.m. on Saturday. The soldiers, apparently searching for medical facilities for anti-junta insurgents, then cornered and massacred 32 civilians hiding in monasteries, they said.

Nway Oo, an official with the anti-junta Civilian Defense and Security Organization of Myaung, told RFA that civilians were taken out and shot.

“The people were fleeing as the junta forces were shooting, some people were hiding in monasteries,” he said. “All the men were asked to sit down and were shot dead.”

Thirty-one men and one woman were killed, six people were wounded, a resident said.

The military regime has not released any information about its operations in the area. Telephone calls to junta spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun and the Sagaing region spokesperson, Nyunt Win Aung, went unanswered. 

Leaders of the National Unity Government (NUG), formed by pro-democracy politicians and allies after the military plunged the country back into bloody turmoil with its 2021 overthrow of an elected government, called the massacre in Myinmu township a war crime.

The NUG said about 70 junta troops from three combined battalions, as well as members of the pro-junta Pyu Saw Htee militia were responsible for the massacre.

The death toll, if confirmed, would make it one of the bloodiest incidents in Myanmar’s latest round of war, which has brought unprecedented violence to central, heartland parts of the country occupied by the majority Burman community. 

Photographs showed bodies stacked in the back of a truck and lined up on the ground. The victims were aged 15 to 60, the NUG said.

Troops also burned down village houses and abducted more than 20 people, including children and women, the NUG said.

RFA could not confirm the identities of the dead. The village resident said among the victims were three masons from nearby Wan Pyayt village who were doing some work on the monks’ dormitories. 

“There was no battle, they were shot dead,” the resident, who declined to be identified fearing reprisals, told Radio Free Asia.

In a junta attack in nearby Tabayin township, seven people were killed in an airstrike in Ma Gyi Oke village on Saturday, residents and members of the anti-junta People’s Defense Force said.

Four of the dead were anti-junta fighters, they said.

Residents told RFA that junta troops were hunting clinics opened by civilian public administration groups where they believed insurgents were getting treatment.