Regime forces wearing People’s Defence Force (PDF) uniforms arrested dozens of villagers and killed at least two in Sagaing Region’s Pinlebu Township earlier this week, according to PDF sources.
Soldiers entered the villages of Pa Lu Thar, Saing Hlyar Gyi, Nyaung Pin Thar, and Zay Di Oo from neighbouring Paungbyin Township on Monday dressed as resistance fighters as a ruse to catch sympathisers, a PDF officer told Myanmar Now.
“They came into the villages singing revolutionary songs and started making arrests when farmers greeted them with the three-finger salute,” said the PDF officer, referring to the hand gesture that has become a symbol of resistance to Myanmar’s coup regime.
According to the officer, more than 30 people were detained. Most were later released after being held at the police station in the town of Pinlebu, but at least 10, including two 12-year-old children, are still in custody, he said.
Two men, both in their 40s, were brutally murdered, he added.
“The head of one victim was completely crushed and there were bruises and bullet wounds on his leg. There was not much left of his skull,” the Pinlebu PDF officer said.
The military column that carried out the raids consisted of around 100 junta troops from Light Infantry Battalion 336, based in Mawlaik Township, and members of the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia.
According to the PDF officer, it also included members of the Shanni Nationalities Army (SNA), an ethnic Shanni armed group formed in 1989 and active in several townships in Sagaing Region and neighbouring Kachin State.
He added that this was the first time that SNA members had been seen collaborating with the junta forces.
However, a spokesperson for the SNA, Col Sai Aung Mein, denied that the group was working together with the regime to suppress resistance forces.
“It’s impossible for us to collaborate with the military council,” he said.
A number of ethnic armed organisations have been involved in the ongoing struggle between the regime and resistance forces, with most siding with the PDF and other anti-junta groups.
However, troops from the armed wing of the Pa-O National Organisation, a group based in Shan State, are known to have fought alongside junta troops in a number of clashes.
The group has also been accused of forcibly recruiting Pa-O villagers to join a militia that is seen by many as part of its effort to support the regime.
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The resistance column said in its statement that it had suffered no casualties in the incident and had torched three buildings in Htamin Ma Sar where regime forces had been stationed.
At the time of reporting, the military had not released any information on recent clashes in southern Myanmar.
In a separate statement published on Friday, the Crocodile Column explained that it, as a coalition, was borne “out of necessity on the ground,” and intended to unify anti-junta defence forces in Tanintharyi. It also noted that it would abide by policies imposed by the NUG.
Throughout the nearly two years since the February 2021 coup, Tanintharyi Region, which has a heavy military presence, has seen several clashes between regime forces and local guerrilla groups.
However, the Crocodile Column described Thursday’s operation as the first in which several area resistance forces had collaborated on a single mission.