Resistance coalitions go on the offensive, ambushing Myanmar army columns in Sagaing

Local defence forces launched lethal attacks this week on two junta columns moving through Kani and Myaung townships in Sagaing Region, reportedly causing multiple junta casualties. 

On Tuesday, resistance fighters ambushed more than 80 soldiers in Kani as they marched on foot along the western shore of the Chindwin River in order to secure passage for military vessels. Hundreds of homes have been destroyed in junta assaults along the waterway.

A clash broke out at around 8am near the villages of Tazei Chaung and Nyaung Pin Wun, three miles from Kani’s administrative centre. The township is one of many in Sagaing affected by a recent military-imposed blackout on phone and internet services. 

“We waited for them in a field and opened fire when they were halfway in, so we managed to kill many of them,” said AT, a member of the Kyauk Lone Gyi Brigade—one of the Kani-based resistance forces involved in the attack. 

Defence forces claimed that a military captain and up to 30 troops were killed in the assault. Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the number of casualties. 

By noon, the military had launched an airstrike on the area, which it preceded with an attack using commercially available drones with bombs attached—a weapon which AT said that he had not seen the junta’s forces previously employ in the area.

“They attached 60mm shells to drones and dropped them on the area before the airstrike. Previous junta columns didn’t have drones like this,” he explained. 

A member of another local defence force involved in the clash said that up to 11 resistance fighters were injured by the bombs dropped from the drones.  

While the guerrilla forces retreated, the military reportedly captured seven locals in hiding and forced them to serve as human shields. The presence of the civilians among the troops forced resistance fighters to abandon a plan to launch a counterassault using explosive devices, AT said. 

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Myanmar army soldiers killed in the eastern part of Ta Ma Say Kan village on May 29 (Supplied)

Two days earlier, in Myaung—which borders Mandalay Region—an alliance of 11 defence forces from Mandalay and Sagaing attacked another junta column responsible for the recent burning of some 100 homes in villages in the northern part of the township. 

The 120 soldiers were ambushed as they raided and set fire to more than 40 houses in the village of Tay Ma Say Kan after torching nearly 60 homes in Zayat Kone, where they had been stationed, according to a statement released by the Chaung-U People’s Defence Force (PDF) on Wednesday. 

“We attacked them from both the front and from behind,” Zarni Thein, the leader of the Chaung-U PDF, said. “It’s like they were burned by their own fire. It’s the price they had to pay for destroying our villages.”

He claimed that 12 troops were killed during the two hours of late afternoon fighting, and five more, including a lieutenant, died later of their injuries. Myanmar Now was unable to confirm the reported 17 junta casualties, but received photos and videos from the battle site showing a number of slain troops.

An information officer from the TTA Guerrilla Force in Mandalay’s Taungtha Township—which was part of the resistance coalition involved in the attack in Myaung—told Myanmar Now that junta soldiers were distracted by the defence forces’ use of a drone camera and many were killed trying to shoot it down. 

“They were chasing the drone, not knowing that we were waiting to ambush them. They ran straight into our killing field,” he said, adding that the allied resistance forces employed heavy artillery and RPGs. 

Ye Lin, a 22-year-old member of the Myaung Special Defence Force, was reportedly killed by military artillery fire, and six more resistance fighters were injured. 

“The military relentlessly fired heavy artillery shells while we were retreating so that we wouldn’t be able to collect the dead bodies of the junta soldiers,” the Chaung-U PDF’s Zarni Thein told Myanmar Now.

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Myanmar army soldiers killed in the eastern part of Ta Ma Say Kan village on May 29 (Supplied)

Two days earlier, in Myaung—which borders Mandalay Region—an alliance of 11 defence forces from Mandalay and Sagaing attacked another junta column responsible for the recent burning of some 100 homes in villages in the northern part of the township. 

The 120 soldiers were ambushed as they raided and set fire to more than 40 houses in the village of Tay Ma Say Kan after torching nearly 60 homes in Zayat Kone, where they had been stationed, according to a statement released by the Chaung-U People’s Defence Force (PDF) on Wednesday. 

“We attacked them from both the front and from behind,” Zarni Thein, the leader of the Chaung-U PDF, said. “It’s like they were burned by their own fire. It’s the price they had to pay for destroying our villages.”

He claimed that 12 troops were killed during the two hours of late afternoon fighting, and five more, including a lieutenant, died later of their injuries. Myanmar Now was unable to confirm the reported 17 junta casualties, but received photos and videos from the battle site showing a number of slain troops.

An information officer from the TTA Guerrilla Force in Mandalay’s Taungtha Township—which was part of the resistance coalition involved in the attack in Myaung—told Myanmar Now that junta soldiers were distracted by the defence forces’ use of a drone camera and many were killed trying to shoot it down. 

“They were chasing the drone, not knowing that we were waiting to ambush them. They ran straight into our killing field,” he said, adding that the allied resistance forces employed heavy artillery and RPGs. 

Ye Lin, a 22-year-old member of the Myaung Special Defence Force, was reportedly killed by military artillery fire, and six more resistance fighters were injured. 

“The military relentlessly fired heavy artillery shells while we were retreating so that we wouldn’t be able to collect the dead bodies of the junta soldiers,” the Chaung-U PDF’s Zarni Thein told Myanmar Now.

Photo of the scene in Pathein Prison after the January 6 attack, released by the military council

One political detainee dead, another missing after assault by guards, police in Myanmar prison 

Staff in Pathein Prison beat dozens of prisoners after inmates protest the alleged construction of gallows to execute a striking teacher sentenced to death

Photo of the scene in Pathein Prison after the January 6 attack, released by the military council

Staff in Pathein Prison beat dozens of prisoners after inmates protest the alleged construction of gallows to execute a striking teacher sentenced to death

As tensions rose over the incident, prison guards reportedly attacked an inmate with a baton, prompting others who witnessed the assault to rush to his defence.

At least one prisoner, 33-year-old Wai Yan Phyo, was killed in the ensuing melee. In a statement, the regime claimed that he had been beaten to death by fellow inmates.

The statement also blamed the incident on the prisoners, accusing them of attacking prison guards.

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The funeral photo of Wai Yan Phyo, a political detainee killed in the crackdown on a protest at the Pathein Prison (CJ via Radio Free Asia)

Mae Gyi, who is also known as Win Min Htet, has not been seen since he was separated from the other prisoners, raising fears about his safety.

“It would be some consolation to his family if the authorities confirmed whether he was dead or alive,” said Myanmar Now’s source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

On January 7, junta troops reportedly arrested Sandar Aye, the wife of political prisoner Win Htun Aung, who was among the eight inmates who joined the protest led by Mae Gyi.

The reason for her arrest remains unclear, but there were concerns that she was being targeted as retaliation for her husband’s alleged role in stoking unrest.

On Sunday, the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) released a statement condemning the junta’s treatment of Pathein Prison inmates as a violation of the UN Convention Against Torture.

“This is even worse than what we have heard of from other prisons,” an AAPP official told Myanmar Now. “This is a grave criminal offence.”

The AAPP official also noted that the International Committee of the Red Cross has not been permitted to conduct prison inspections since the military seized power nearly two years ago, heightening the likelihood of serious abuses.

There have been a number of instances of prisoners being killed behind bars since the February 2021 coup. In March of last year, seven inmates of Kalay Prison in Sagaing Region were shot dead by prison authorities, allegedly for attempting to escape.

The use of excessive force by prison authorities has long been a problem in Myanmar. In May 2019, a riot inside Shwebo Prison in Sagaing resulted in the deaths of four prisoners.

According to AAPP—which keeps records on political prisoners arrested, sentenced, and released in Myanmar—at least 13,429 civilians throughout the country remain in detention for opposing the military regime as of January 11. 

Victims of the prison shooting (Junta-controlled media)

Seven inmates shot dead inside northwestern Myanmar prison

Locals challenge junta claims that the detainees were shot because they were trying to escape Kalay Prison

Victims of the prison shooting (Junta-controlled media)

Locals challenge junta claims that the detainees were shot because they were trying to escape Kalay Prison

Doctors attend an anti-coup protest in Yangon in February 2021 (Myanmar Now)

Military demands Mandalay hospitals submit patient lists in ‘bid to prevent treatment’ of injured resistance fighters 

The junta has also revoked the licences of 14 medics and threatened to shut down private clinics that employ CDM doctors 

Doctors attend an anti-coup protest in Yangon in February 2021 (Myanmar Now)

The junta has also revoked the licences of 14 medics and threatened to shut down private clinics that employ CDM doctors 

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