The military set a village in central Myanmar on fire after a clash with opponents, leaving at least two elderly people burned to death, according to several people who lived in the village.
News of the violence allegedly committed by the military came as protests against the February 1 coup continued, with dozens of protesters in motorcycles holding a dawn strike in Kachin State and hundreds of people marching in Hpakant Township in Sagaing Region, as well as in Dawei in Tanintharyi Region on Thursday.
MRTV state television said the blaze on Tuesday at Kin Ma, a village of about 800 people in the Magway Region, was caused by “terrorists” and that media who reported otherwise were “deliberately plotting to discredit the military”.
The Reuters news agency was unable to independently verify the cause of the blaze. A military spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.
All that remained of Kin Ma on Wednesday was about 30 houses, with some 200 homes reduced to piles of ash and bricks, according to several villagers who gave accounts of the incident by telephone and photographs seen by Reuters.
The blaze was large enough to be recorded by NASA’s satellite fire-tracking system at 9:52pm (15:22 GMT) on Tuesday.
The villagers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that security forces set the fires after confronting opponents of the coup and that at least two people were killed.
A 32-year-old volunteer assisting people displaced from the village said the two dead were elderly residents who had been unable to escape their home during the fire. He said some people returned to the village on Wednesday and found the bodies.
Residents in hiding
Most of the village’s residents remained in hiding in nearby forests, the villagers told Reuters.
MRTV said 40 “terrorists” torched a house in Kin Ma, starting a fire that spread to 100 of the village’s 225 homes.
Myanmar has been gripped by violence and protests since army chief Min Aung Hlaing arrested elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power for the military. The generals had ruled the Southeast Asian nation with an iron fist for most of its post-independence years before ceding some powers to a civilian government during a decade of tentative political reform.
Fire razes a Myanmar village, killing four elderly people. Residents of Kin Ma village in central Myanmar’s Magway region told RFA that military forces set the fire. pic.twitter.com/99sxfsBzoR
— Radio Free Asia (@RadioFreeAsia) June 16, 2021
Photographs and videos taken of the aftermath of the fire in Kin Ma showed a thin haze of smoke above the village from white embers that smouldered on blackened ground.
Burned planks of wood, sheet metal, bricks and cooking pots were scattered around, with only a few trees left standing. Some images showed animal carcasses.
“Reports that the junta has burned down an entire village in Magway, killing elderly residents, demonstrate once again that the military continues to commit terrible crimes and has no regard for the people of Myanmar,” the United Kingdom’s embassy in Myanmar said on Twitter, quoting its ambassador Dan Chugg.
Human rights groups have accused Myanmar’s forces of burning hundreds of villages in 2017 during an offensive that drove hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.
— Kyaw Zayar Lin (@kzy_linn) June 17, 2021
Security forces denied setting fires and, in some cases, blamed the blazes on Rohingya.
Western condemnation of the military government has grown over the military’s use of force against its opponents.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a human rights group, says security forces have killed some 865 civilians since the coup, although the military disputes the figure.