Tin Tun is silent as he sits in the scorching heat of the sun. It is past midday, but he still hasn’t eaten anything.
The 40-year-old farmer from Inn Nge Daunt, a village in Magway Region’s Pauk Township, has been like this since March 5, the day his wife and daughter were taken from him in the most brutal manner imaginable.
Any attempt to speak to him about what happened that day is met with tears. “Please don’t ask me about that,” he says.
A friend from a neighbouring village explains instead.
Tin Tun didn’t just lose his wife and three-year-old daughter, the friend begins. He also hasn’t seen eight other members of his family, including his parents and an older daughter, since the raid on their village more than two weeks ago.
All he has left of his family, in fact, is his eight-year-old middle daughter.
“His youngest daughter and wife were killed and his parents, younger sister and eldest daughter were also taken. This essentially drove him mad. He just couldn’t cope with it,” said the friend, who is from the nearby village of Boet Mei.
A chilling discovery
On the morning of March 5, Tin Tun was busy collecting palm juice when he heard that around 100 junta soldiers and members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia had entered Inn Nge Daunt, a village of just 30 or so households.
After learning that his wife and daughters were being held with more than 30 others, he started running back to his home, but fell and injured himself before he could get there.
Meanwhile, the soldiers who took control of the village had begun firing guns and heavy artillery to ward off resistance forces active in the area.
The situation remained tense for the next several hours. Then, at around 4pm, seven oxcarts arrived in Inn Nge Daunt from Wun Chone, a village located about 3km to the east. They were then loaded up with goods looted from Inn Nge Daunt and sent back to Wun Chone, a known Pyu Saw Htee stronghold.
Along the way, however, two of the oxcarts broke down. When members of a local defence force approached, soldiers who had stayed behind to guard the carts opened fire on them, according to a local source.
“[Pyu Saw Htee] were pretending to be civilians and then started shooting with automatic weapons suddenly. But then the defence team attacked them, just because they couldn’t stand to see them steal all that stuff,” the source said.
The two sides clashed for about an hour, until the resistance forces retreated after junta troops positioned on a hill west of Inn Nge Daung started firing on them with heavy artillery.
After that, the soldiers returned to the village with four injured youths who had taken part in the fighting. Then, at around 7pm, they started setting fire to houses in the centre of Inn Nge Daunt before setting off for Wun Chone with more than 30 hostages as human shields.
Residents and resistance forces didn’t dare enter Inn Nge Daunt that night, fearing that some of the soldiers might have stayed behind to ambush them in the dark.
When they did return at dawn the next morning, they found that two houses had been burned down. Inside were the bodies of the four young resistance fighters.
More chilling, however, was the discovery of two other bodies covered with a blanket in a house next to one of the two that had been torched—Tin Tun’s house.
Stabbed to death
The two victims were soon identified as Tin Tun’s wife, Aye Aye Win, and their three-year-old daughter, Yati Moe. Both had been stabbed in the chest.
“They even killed the child in this way. The blade went all the way through Aye Aye Win’s body, so it must have been at least a foot long,” said Tin Tun’s friend from Boet Mei.
There was also evidence that she was raped before she was murdered, he added.
He suggested that this might have been why she was murdered. Since the Pyu Saw Htee members were from a nearby village, it’s likely that she knew who her assailants were, he said.
It’s also possible that she was singled out for attack because of her family’s wealth. It was well known in the area that they had recently sold 50 goats for 5m kyat ($2,800).
“I think they asked her to give them the money they got from selling the goats and raped and killed her when she refused to do so,” he said.
Whatever the motive, it’s clear that the attack was unspeakably vicious.
“There was a lot of blood covering her genital area,” said the leader of a local defence force, who noted that the legs of both bodies were tied with ropes.
‘I can’t think anymore’
While Tin Tun continues to grieve the loss of his wife and youngest child, he also remains tormented with concern for his eldest daughter, 12-year-old Thin Thin, and the other members of his family who are still missing.
A total of 34 people—including eight children and a three-month-old baby—were taken hostage during the March 5 raid on Inn Nge Daunt.
According to a local guerrilla leader, the captives were taken to Ta Kone, a village about 5km north of Inn Nge Daunt, where they are being held at the local monastery.
He also said, without explaining further, that the troops who were holding them met with an explosion on the way to Tat Kone.
After more than two weeks without any contact with his family, Tin Tun has all but lost hope of ever seeing his missing loved ones again.
“I can’t think anymore. All of my family is gone. Please don’t ask me anything. I don’t know what to do anymore,” he says forlornly.
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