More than 7,000 people flee their homes around Done Taw village
About 130 junta soldiers arrived in a village in the Sagaing region on Sunday and abducted local civilians to use them as human shields before attacking a People’s Defense Forces (PDF) base, said resistance fighters.
Some of the soldiers were dropped off by helicopter near a monastery outside Nyaungbingyitaw in Wetlet County, a PDF spokesperson said, while others arrived on foot.
The troops then marched in two columns towards the villages of Shar Kwe and Thit Saint and rounded up civilians before leading them through the forest and finally raiding the base.
“I think they were trying to avoid landmines,” the spokesperson said.
“Because they were taking civilians with them, we couldn’t attack them freely. We did not even manage to detonate the explosives that we had installed, ”he added.
One had around 70 soldiers and another around 50. They detained around 100 villagers between them, residents said.
A local Wetlet man said many villagers fled their homes to avoid being captured.
“They took everyone they saw,” he told Myanmar Now, “including those who were hiding in their homes and in the monastery”.
The soldiers made the villagers sit in a line and showed them photos of the PDF leaders and asked if they knew them, he added. “They terrorized village after village in Wetlet Township.”
The captives were released on the evening of the same day. Those taken to Thit Saint were released unharmed, but villagers captured in Shar Kwe were beaten before their release, the local man said.
No spokesperson for the junta could be reached for comment.
Before releasing the captives, the two columns of soldiers attacked a base 42 kilometers from Nyaungbingyitaw where members of the Shwebo PDF were camping, but the resistance fled before the soldiers arrived to avoid injuring the captured civilians.
Ko Mhaing, a member of Shwebo PDF, said soldiers destroyed several buildings and supplies at the base.
“The base has been completely destroyed but people are safe,” he said. “We also managed to move the weapons. However, we lost the furniture and appliances. Some supplies were spared but they took the animals.
Ko Mhaing said “hundreds” of soldiers attacked the base as a helicopter flew overhead. He assumed the military had information on the location of the base in advance.
Sagaing is a stronghold of armed resistance forces fighting to overthrow the dictatorship. The junta forces suffered heavy losses there in the face of guerrilla attacks by residents with homemade explosives and in-depth knowledge of the terrain.
The junta has assembled a pro-military militia-like force called the Pyu Saw Htee to aid it in its efforts to eliminate the resistance, though it officially denies any involvement in the group.
December 31st and January 1st combatants PDF attack Members and soldiers of Pyu Saw Htee who were stationed in the village of Phayarlaykone, east of Wetlet township, killing around 40 people.
The military launched an airstrike in response, allowing the remaining members of the junta forces to escape.
A day later, around 50 soldiers were dropped by two helicopters on the monastery outside Nyaungbingyitaw while a third helicopter strafed the area with bullets and explosives.