Junta militia kills five guerillas on lookout duty for anti-coup protest 

Members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia shot and killed five resistance fighters who were acting as lookouts for an anti-junta rally in the Sagaing Region township of Monywa on Sunday. 

The militiamen attacked as the guerillas were “discreetly” keeping watch in Ku Taw Palin village, about eight miles south of the site of the protest in Monywa, so they could alert the demonstrators in case junta forces were headed their way.

“Nobody from the protest column was injured and the protest was a success,” said Arkar, a member of the Monywa People’s Strike Committee. “but five of our comrades on guard duty were taken and killed by the Pyu Saw Htee group.”

The Pyu Saw Htee militiamen were from the nearby village of Taw Pu, he added. 

“I think they were found and captured while they were discreetly standing guard. We thought they had escaped but we found out about their deaths when we saw the photos of their bodies,” he said, referring to images that circulated on social media.  

The victims were aged between 20 and 27, he said, adding that it has not been possible to retrieve their bodies because Pyu Saw Htee members set up explosives around the area where they were killed. 

Than Kyaw Oo, another member of the Monywa People’s Strike Committee, wrote on his Facebook page that the militiamen were told the guerillas’ location by an informant. 

“They knew exactly where they were because of an informant. They were brutally shot and killed after they were taken,” he said.

During Sunday’s rally, other guerilla fighters carried rifles as they marched alongside demonstrators. More anti-dictatorship protests went ahead in the Sagaing townships of Salingyi and Kalay on Sunday. 

The junta has cut off internet access to much of Sagaing as its forces carry out a scorched-earth campaign of arson, torture, and massacres in a bid to stamp out the resistance. 

Students sit for an exam in the forest in Hpa-an District in February (Supplied)

A 12-year-old girl currently sitting for her exams in the forests of Hpa-an told Myanmar Now—with the permission of her guardian and teacher—that she and her peers were worried that even in the woods, they could still be the target of further attacks by the military.  

“I heard about the bombings in other regions that killed kids my age and it breaks my heart every time I hear news like this,” she said. “I feel so bad for them but I can’t do anything about it. Even I, myself, am taking my exams in the forest, not knowing when the military is going to come back and launch airstrikes.”

Locals said that junta jets were also seen hovering over villages located around the KNU headquarters, located at another site also named Lay Wah but in Hpa-an District, on February 18, with drones scouting the area in the evening.

Some 1,000 residents of two area villages subsequently left their homes, fearing forthcoming attacks. Those who stayed behind did so because of health conditions that prevented them from fleeing, a man from the area explained, noting that they positioned themselves near bunkers and trenches if bombings were to occur. 

“Some clinics are even sending patients home as we don’t know when the next airstrike will come,” the man said, adding that these sites have been targeted in past assaults. 

Among the villagers who left, some attempted to cross the Thaungyin (Moei) River and enter neighbouring Thailand, but were reportedly turned back by the local authorities. 

“Some families tried to cross over to Thailand, thinking they’d be safe there. But they could only go as far as the shore, as the Thai police force wouldn’t let them across,” another local said. 

The junta has carried out some 307 airstrikes within Karen territory in the two years since the February 2021 military coup, the KNU said on Tuesday. 

During this time, 36 civilians were killed and 57 were injured in the aerial attacks and heavy weapons fire by the regime; more than 20 of these deaths occurred in late March 2021, when the military carried out three days of airstrikes on villages in the KNU’s Brigade 5.

Some 258 homes, 12 schools, six hospitals, eight churches and four monasteries were also destroyed by the junta in KNU territory over the last two years, according to the organisation.

The military council has denied carrying out such attacks against the public, instead claiming that it targets “terrorists.”

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