Nearly 10,000 residents of Myanmar’s central Bago region have fled their villages as junta troops continue their scorched-earth operations in an attempt to flush out local People’s Defense Forces and ethnic Karen fighters.
Residents said 12 villages in Shwegyin township in the east of Bago had been abandoned.
A military column with around 80 villages started raiding villages on March 9, according to a local woman who was forced to flee.
“Htaung Laung, Waing, Baw Ka Htar, Pa De Kaw, Nyaung Pin Gyi and other villages were raided by troops, shelling us with heavy artillery and leaving casualties,” she told RFA, speaking on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.
“Even while I am talking now there are people fleeing around me. The junta column is stationed at Inn Ga Ni village now and firing artillery in eight directions.”
She said she did not know how many people had been killed or injured by shelling and firing of live rounds because residents were too scared to return to their homes..
Locals are taking refuge in religious areas like monasteries and pagoda squares in Shwegyin town, the woman said.
There have been frequent battles between junta troops and Karen National Union fighters in Shwegyin township but neither side has released a statement on the recent fighting.
However, Tin Oo, the junta’s spokesperson for Bago region denied that any residents had been forced to flee their villages.
According to United Nations figures data to Feb. 27, more than 1.6 million people have become internally displaced persons in Myanmar, with 1.3 million of them forced to flee their homes due to conflict and insecurity following the Feb. 1, 2021 coup.
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