Many flee as army ‘torches’ homes in Myanmar’s Sagaing region

Violence in the northwest region is the latest in a series of attacks by the military that also forced thousands to flee Chin state on Wednesday.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since Aung San Suu Kyi's government was overthrown by the military in February, sparking a nationwide uprising the the army has tried to crush - with deadly consequences [File: Stringer/Reuters]

An undetermined number of civilians have reportedly been forced to flee their village in the Sagaing Region of Myanmar after security forces allegedly burned down homes and opened fire on residents.

According to The Irrawaddy news website on Thursday – one day after two police officers and their families were killed – government troops burned down a village in the township of Taze, northwest of the city of Mandalay.

A series of images posted on social media showed thick black smoke rising from a tree-lined area, identified by The Irrawaddy as Kyikone Village. There were no immediate reports of casualties from the violence.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi’s party was overthrown by the military in February, sparking a nationwide uprising that the army has tried to crush.

The violence in Sagaing also comes just one day after thousands of people fled Chin state near the Indian border following fighting between anti-coup dissidents and the military.

Attacks on the military have increased after parliament members ousted by the generals called for a “people’s defensive war” earlier this month.

One such confrontation came on September 18 when soldiers fought some 100 members of a local defence group after being “ambushed” in Thantlang, Chin, military spokesman Zaw Min Thun said on Tuesday, without giving casualty figures.

He added that 20 homes and a government building had been destroyed in a fire after the clash, without specifying a cause.

Random shooting

The Irrawaddy reported on Wednesday that thousands of residents fled their homes following the shelling on Saturday.

Residents began to flee on Monday after soldiers “began to randomly shoot out the windows” of houses in the town, one local who did not want to be named told AFP news agency.

“Almost everyone has left,” he said, adding he was sheltering in a nearby village with some 500 others, and that several hundred had already headed towards India.

Another resident said she travelled for three days with her elderly parents to reach India after soldiers bombed her house and fighting escalated around the town.

“I never thought of running from my own house even after the military bombed it… but as things got worse… I finally had to flee,” she told AFP on condition of anonymity.

‘Very scared’

Residents across the border in India’s Mizoram state say about 2,000 refugees have arrived from Chin since September 10. Some said they had seen military planes dropping bombs on targets in Chin.

One inhabitant of Thingsai village told AFP through a translator that, on September 10, villagers heard gunfire and bombings across the border. Another said villagers saw the military planes dropping bombs.

One refugee who crossed over on September 15 said he rode a bike for three days to get to Mizoram. “We are very scared after the bombing. We had to flee. Two of my children stayed back to fight the military and protect our people,” the man said, declining to be named.

Videos and pictures published by the media showed buildings in Thantlang they said had been destroyed by the military, and domestic animals roaming deserted streets.

In recent weeks, anti-coup fighters have attacked communications towers belonging to the military-owned Mytel across the country, including in Chin.

A photo from an anonymous source shows people attempting to extinguish a fire in Namg Kar village as fighting continues between the Myanmar military and protesters, September 18 [Handout Photo via AFP]

The UN warned that renewed fighting in the region was sending more people fleeing into India, where they urgently required food and shelter.

In May, government forces used artillery to flush out rebels from the town of Mindat in southern Chin and later cut off its water supply, according to a spokesman for a local armed group.

More than 1,100 civilians have been killed and nearly 8,000 arrested since the coup, according to local observers.

The military has defended its power grab by alleging massive fraud during elections in late 2020 which Aung San Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy party won by a landslide.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies