An eight-year-old child was killed along with his mother and grandfather when an artillery shell fired by junta troops hit their home in central Sagaing Region on Wednesday.
The victims were identified as Zin Bhone, his mother Lei Lei Soe, 26, and his grandfather Soe Kyaw, 53, from the village of Koe Taung Boet in northern Kanbalu Township.
The shelling happened during a clash between junta troops stationed in the village and members of a local defence force called KTB-R.
Over 80 junta troops had been occupying the village and some 50 of them left for the town of Kawlin, about 11km north of Koe Taung Boet, on Wednesday, according to Ko Chit, a leader of the KTB-R.
Members of the defence group then entered the village and launched attacks on the remaining junta troops, who had positioned themselves in trenches in the north of the village, said Ko Chit.
An artillery shell fired by junta troops from outside the village hit the house of the victims, he added.
“They were inside their home, but the heavy artillery shells that the military fired fell right on the house. We were unable to save them as we were busy fighting and it was already night,” Ko Chit told Myanmar Now.
The clash escalated after the incident and continued until Friday, he added.
“The battle on June 1 wasn’t that fierce. It was just us trying to close in on them. But the day after they killed the family, we attacked them from all directions and they fought back from the trenches,” Ko Chit said.
The soldiers had been stationed in Koe Taung Boet since late March and had dug trenches and built communication tunnels there, essentially creating a small base, according to Ko Chit.
However, most of the soldiers stayed in the houses of displaced villagers until Wednesday, when those who remained behind after around 50 of them left took up position in the trenches.
“They were firing at us from their camp, but we had them surrounded from both inside and outside of the village,” said the KTB-R leader.
Koe Taw Boet is a village of around 2,000 households. Most of its inhabitants have fled the area due to the clashes.
On February 4, a junta column coming south from Kawlin clashed with the village’s defence forces, killing 16 resistance fighters, according to KTB-R.
Sagaing Region has been a major stronghold of Myanmar’s armed resistance movement against the military regime that seized power in a coup early last year.
The military has been accused of raiding and burning villages in many parts of the region in a bid to crush resistance to its rule. There have also been numerous reports of junta soldiers using villagers as human shields and then executing them.
Zaw Min Tun, the regime’s spokesperson, has repeatedly rejected allegations of military atrocities, but seldom comments on individual cases.
The junta has also imposed a communications blackout across a wide area of the region, as well as in parts of neighbouring Magway Region, as it steps up its offensives in these areas.