Myanmar’s military carried out airstrikes on several villages in Sagaing Township’s Depayin Township last week following the defection of three soldiers, according to local sources.
Thousands of people have fled their homes since Thursday, when the eastern Depayin villages of Mayakan, Nyaung Hla, Namyar, Yin Kyay and Nyaungbintha all came under attack, residents said.
People living in neighbouring Khin-U Township, which is on the eastern side of the Muu River, opposite the area targeted by the airstrikes, said the offensive began at around 1:30 and lasted more than 40 minutes.
“Two helicopters were used to drop soldiers into the area, while two more fired relentlessly. It was brutal, and very loud,” said a resident of Muu Thar, a village on the eastern bank of the river.
Another Khin-U villager told Myanmar Now that the helicopters carrying the reinforcement troops landed in Namyar and Yin Kyay, while Mayakan bore the brunt of the aerial assault.
“They launched an air attack on Mayakan, even though there hasn’t been any recent fighting there,” said the resident of Tataing, a village on the eastern side of the Muu River.
“The soldiers who were transported into the area immediately started attacking the villages nearby,” he added.
The attacks appeared to have been prompted by the recent defection of soldiers stationed in the area.
According to the leader of a local defence force, the incident occurred a week after two soldiers turned themselves in and a day after another defected.
“Three junta soldiers have surrendered to us. One brought his weapons with him, but the other two didn’t,” said Kaung Kin, the leader of a Depayin-based resistance group.
“They said they were forced to torch civilians’ houses for no reason and arrest and execute people without proper evidence that they had done anything wrong. They said they didn’t want to do those things anymore,” he added.
According to a support group for displaced civilians, at least three people, including two children, were injured as they fled the attack. More complete casualty figures were not available, however, as many villagers were still on the run, they added.
Myanmar Now attempted to reach junta officials for comment on the airstrike, but did not receive a response.
Myanmar’s military regime routinely denies targeting civilians in its efforts to crush resistance forces, despite abundant evidence that it does so on an almost daily basis.
The junta also declines to comment on defectors. According to the shadow National Unity Government, nearly 3,000 soldiers have deserted from the military since last year’s coup, with many joining the side of the country’s anti-regime resistance forces.
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A relative of one of the women reported that they were all believed to be in good health, but added that contact with them has been extremely limited due to security measures.
“It hasn’t been easy to visit them in prison. When we go, we are subjected to thorough searches at military checkpoints. Right now, we can’t go at all,” said the family member, who did not want to be identified.
According to a statement released by the National Unity Consultative Council (NUCC)—an anti-regime coalition group—on Sunday, more than 3,400 women have been arrested by the military since it seized power in February 2021.
Regime authorities have also killed at least 300 women since the coup, the NUCC statement added.
The latest figures compiled by the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) show that a total of 16,432 people have been arrested for resisting the regime, of whom 12,973 were still in detention as of November 25.
Of the nearly 5,800 prisoners released by the junta on November 17 as part of an amnesty to mark Myanmar’s National Day, only 53 were political prisoners, according to the AAPP.