Residents of two villages in central Sagaing Region say they have discovered the bodies of a dozen people killed during junta raids carried out earlier this week.
Ten of the bodies were found in Kyi Su, located on the eastern bank of the Muu River in Kanbalu Township, while the other two were discovered in Thar Wut Hti, a village less than 10km to the south in Khin-U Township, local sources said.
Junta ground troops and military helicopters attacked both villages and several others in the area on Monday. Most of the victims in Kyi Su were members of a village defence team, according to a leader of the group.
“They were caught at the security outpost when the military helicopters came. They were captured because they didn’t have guns, just sticks and swords,” the defence team leader said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
One of the bodies in Kyi Su was discovered on Tuesday evening, after the regime forces had left the area, while the other nine were found early the next day.
Seven were found inside five houses that had been torched during the raid, said residents, who estimated that roughly half of the village’s 600 houses had been destroyed by fire.
“Most of them had been burned beyond recognition. Their hands and feet were bound with wire. There was no way we could identify them,” said a Kyi Su villager who saw the victims’ charred remains.
While they could not be individually identified, the seven were assumed to be members of the village defence force who could not be accounted for after the raid.
The other three victims were among the hundreds of residents who had been held at the village monastery overnight. Most, including one member of the defence force who was mistaken for an ordinary civilian, were released the next morning.
“We found a big pool of blood at the monastery and we followed the trail of blood to find the bodies,” a village resident told Myanmar Now, adding that the search for victims was still ongoing.
The two bodies discovered near Thar Wut Hti are believed to belong to residents who returned to the village thinking that the regime soldiers had already left. Both were found on Tuesday.
According to Sein Bay Dar, the leader of a Kanbalu-based resistance group called KBL-UG, one victim had been shot in the head and dumped in a ditch outside of the village.
The other body was discovered using a drone, he said. It had not been retrieved as of Wednesday because troops were still stationed nearby, he added.
Kyi Su and Thar Wut Hti are also near the Ye-U Township villages of Mone Hla and Pin Sein Khin, which were among the targets of Monday’s air and ground assault on anti-regime resistance strongholds.
Although residents of the villages fled when the attacks began and were believed to have escaped injury, religious structures were reportedly targeted.
“They fired at the church. The nuns and priest had to flee into the woods,” said a woman in Mone Hla, which is the birthplace of Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the Catholic archbishop of Yangon.
In May, dozens of charred corpses were discovered in and around the villages of Mone Taing Pin and Inpin in Ye-U Township following a series of raids by regime forces.
Survivors of those raids say that some of the victims were burned alive. Photographic and video evidence of military atrocities committed in the area were later found on a phone believed to belong to one of the perpetrators.
Myanmar’s junta routinely denies targeting civilians in its operations against resistance forces, despite evidence of almost daily attacks on villagers.
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