More than 80 civilians have died during clashes in nearly four months of fighting between local militia members and junta forces in one strife-torn township in northwestern Myanmar’s Sagaing, said the local militia in a statement that accused regime troops of killing 46 in three massacres.
Fighting has raged between junta forces and the Kani People’s Defense Force in Kani township in recent months, with police and soldiers storming nearby villages after every clash and arresting and killing local residents, local sources say.
Junta forces also set fire to homes, take away valuables, farming tools, and agricultural produce, and slaughter cattle, sources say.
A total of 82 township residents have lost their lives, the Kani People’s Defense Force said on Aug. 8 on its Facebook page. Of these, at least 46 people were killed in three separate massacres by Myanmar troops, including 31 members of the militia, it said.
There have been 35 clashes in 31 different places in which 31 of our comrades were killed, and there were three massacres of civilians by the military in which 51 died,” one militia member said.
“The clashes took place on both sides of the Chindwin River in our township,” he told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity.
At least 50 Kani residents have also been arrested in the past four months, he said.
Since the beginning of the fighting in April, junta forces have set up checkpoints along the Monywa-Yargyu-Kalewa road in Kani township and are closely monitoring all passing pedestrians and motorbikes, local sources say.
“While we were fleeing the fighting, all incoming and outgoing traffic was blocked, and it became very hard to find food,” one township resident said, adding that access even to medicines used to fight fever had been cut off.
“There is no way to buy even a single pill of paracetamol for when you are sick, and cash and over donations from wellwishers can only be carried in small amounts on a motorcycle,” he said. “We have had to share food for the past several days.”
“If this situation continues for much longer, there will be famine. Even now, many people are just eating rice porridge, and some have not been able to cook anything now for a day or two,” he added.
Locals also said that they are fleeing the war during the rainy season, which is usually the farming season, and that this could lead to even more food shortages during the coming winter.
Fear of famine
One villager in Kani township said that some villages lying west of the Chindwin River will face famine in the next one to two months.
“We are facing different difficulties at all levels,” he said.
“People from the western part of the Chindwin River are coming to the eastern villages to ask for food. Most of them are day laborers and bamboo traders, and in the next one or two months they will find it very hard to survive.”
“Some people have had to carry their elderly relatives on their backs because the military were setting fire to the villages. How can you not hate them?” he asked. “The only reason people are suffering like this is because they are helpless.”
“If I could, I would give my life to end all their suffering,” he said.
At the end of July, villagers found the body of a man hanging from a tree in a forest outside of Kani town center, and that a closer investigation revealed four graves containing the remains of at least 10 people.
On July 11 and 12, residents of Kani township found the hog-tied and severely beaten bodies of at least 15 people scattered in the jungle, days after a government military unit left the area.
On Feb. 1, Myanmar’s military overthrew the country’s democratically elected government, claiming voter fraud had led to a landslide victory for Aung San Suu Kyi’s NLD party in the country’s November 2020 election.
The junta has yet to provide evidence of its claims and has violently suppressed nationwide demonstrations calling for a return to civilian rule.
According to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, at least 966 civilians were killed by police and soldiers between Feb. 1 and Aug. 12.
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