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According to local sources, regime forces have been terrorizing residents of several villages along the Myittha River in Sagaing and Magway regions over the past week.
About 100 junta troops and members of the pro-military Pyu Saw Htee militia from Kyauk Pyoke village in Kale township of Sagaing began raiding other villages in the area last Thursday, the sources said.
The raids extended to the neighboring community of Gangaw in the Magway region and lasted until Tuesday, they added.
At least one person – a 35-year-old man named Mone Phe from Yae Shin Ma, a village on the west bank of the river in Gangaw Municipality – was tortured to death after being arrested on Monday, a resident of the village told Myanmar Now.
“It looked like they strangled him with a towel before shooting him,” said the villager, who asked to remain anonymous.
He added that the victim was probably killed because he could not tell the soldiers where the bases of the anti-regime People’s Defense Forces (PDF) groups active in the area were located.
In Myintha, a village north of Yae Shin Ma, the junta forces destroyed houses and motorbikes, while in Hnankhar, another village in the same area, they killed and ate the livestock of refugee farmers.
According to a villager from Hnankhar, the regime’s troops also destroyed rice that had been stored to feed internally displaced persons (IDPs) who took refuge in nearby forests.
“It was a year of rice for the displaced people, but the military thought it was for the PDFs, so they destroyed it,” said the Hankhar local.
It was widely believed that the recent raids in the area were sparked by a PDF attack on a police station in Khin Yan village last Wednesday.
Khin Yan is considered a Pyu Saw Htee stronghold along with the villages of Kyauk Phyoke, Kokka, Hanthawaddy and Lel Gyi.
The junta column arrived in Khin Yan on Wednesday after ending its killing spree with a final raid on Chaung Gwa village the previous day, local residents said.
According to locals working to support internally displaced people, the situation has become increasingly dire as thousands of people from at least a dozen villages have been forced to seek refuge in forested areas without adequate food or medical care.
One who spoke to Myanmar Now on Wednesday said there was also an urgent need for medical workers in the region as many internally displaced people suffer from deteriorating health due to their harsh living conditions.
“Yesterday was particularly bad when the military went even into the forests and shot at everyone in sight,” he said, adding that recent heavy rains have added to the plight of the IDPs.
Myanmar’s junta has denied targeting civilians in its clearing operations against PDF groups and others who opposed the return of military rule after a coup last February.
However, well-documented atrocities were committed on an almost daily basis in many parts of the country, with Sagaing and Magway – regions previously free of conflict – being among the harshest.