Deaths and arrests rise in Myanmar’s heartland

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Junta security forces have killed at least 155 civilians and arrested 683 others in Myanmar’s Magway region — the heartland of the majority Bamar people — since the military seized power 15 months ago, according to news agencies.

Local sources said that troops had destroyed more than 2,100 houses by arson in Magway over the same period — making it second only to Sagaing in regions hit hardest by the attacks since the Feb. 1, 2021, coup. In the first week of April alone, at least 20 villages were razed in Magway’s Pauk township, where the armed opposition has gained a foothold in recent months.

Sources told agencies that nearly all the incidents occurred in the Magway townships of Magway, Pakokku, Seik Phyu, Gangaw, Saetottara and Myaing — all pockets of strong resistance to military rule.

Much of the reporting on abuses by junta troops to date has focused on Myanmar’s remote border regions, where armed ethnic groups seeking independence have battled the country’s military for decades and established a patchwork of self-administered territories.

The new statistics from Magway, where the population is more than 95% Bamar, suggest that not even members of Myanmar’s majority ethnic group in the country’s central region are immune to attacks by the military.

Residents of Gangaw township’s Taungbet village said troops and Pyu Saw Htee fighters set two fires that destroyed 36 houses there after accusing them of providing haven to anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitaries, which the military regime has labeled a terrorist group. More than 800 people were forced to flee the village in the attacks, they said, adding that at least 695 houses in 17 Gangaw villages have been destroyed by arson since the coup.

Lay Lay Win, a resident of Pauk’s Htan Pauk Kone village, said that her husband Than Tun Oo was arrested on Feb. 21 while he worked on the tract’s water tower by a 30-man column of junta troops from the military’s Pakokku-based 101st Brigade, who brutally murdered him the same day.

She has two young children and is pregnant with her third child, said that Than Tun Oo was targeted after informants told the military he was assisting the local PDF. She said the military did not inform her of her husband’s death or return his body to their family.

Gangaw township, which borders Myanmar’s restive Chin state, was one of the first centers of armed opposition to junta rule. Fighting between the local PDF and the military has been frequent there since early 2022, as it has been in the nearby townships of Saw and Htee Lin. Residents of the area said that every time the two sides clash, the military raids nearby villages, targeting them with arson attacks and even airstrikes.

 

 

AGENCIES

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