Government troops have burned most of a village in Myanmar’s heartland, a resident said Wednesday, confirming reports by independent media and on social networks. The action appeared to be an attempt to suppress resistance against the ruling military junta.
Government-controlled media reported the fires were set by “terrorists” the armed troops were trying to arrest. The government and its opponents each refer to the other side as “terrorists.”
The near-destruction of the village is the latest example of how violence has become endemic in much of Myanmar as the junta tries to subdue an incipient nationwide insurrection. After the army seized power in February, overthrowing the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, a nonviolent civil disobedience movement arose to challenge military rule, but the junta’s attempt to repress it with deadly force fueled rather than quelled resistance.
Photos and videos of devastated Kinma village in Magway region that circulated widely on social media showed much of the village flattened by fire and the charred bodies of farm animals. One report said the village had about 1,000 residents.
A villager contacted by phone said only 10 of 237 houses were left standing. The villager, who asked that his name not be used because of fear of government reprisals, said most residents had already fled when soldiers firing guns entered the village shortly before noon on Tuesday.
He said he believed the troops were searching for members of a village defense force that had been established to protect against the junta’s troops and police. Most such local forces are very lightly armed with homemade hunting rifles.
The village defense force warned residents before the troops arrived, so only four or five people were left in the village when they began searching houses in the afternoon. When they found nothing, they began setting the homes on fire, he said.
“There are some forests just nearby our village. Most of us fled into the forests,” he said.
The villager said he believed there were three casualties, a boy who was a goat herder who was shot in the thigh, and an elderly couple who were unable to flee. He believed the couple had died but several media reports said they were missing.