Junta troops set fire to nearly 400 houses in a town in the Sagaing region

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The Myanmar junta’s brutal arson campaign continues in the country’s northern Sagaing region, setting fire to at least 385 homes in Khin-U municipality since late last week.

Two military columns raided seven villages between Friday and Sunday morning. On Monday, they turned their attention to the village of Saw Gyi in northern Khin-U, setting more houses on fire.

“This morning they entered the village by shelling it,” one resident told RFA Burmese. “Saw Gyi village was on fire at around 10:45 am and everyone was on the run. A column of the junta spent the night in Ma Daung Hla village. The junta column from southern Khin-U reached the [government] workers’ homes in the east of [the township] this morning,” said the resident, who declined to give his name for security reasons. He said it is still unclear how many houses burned down in Saw Gyi.

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The military column that entered the southern part of Khin-U also occupied the village of Paung Hle Kone on November 18 and 19, burning down 136 houses. A 70-year-old woman who was unable to leave was burned to death and a 50-year-old man died of a heart attack following an artillery explosion, locals said.

On November 20, troops burned down 90 houses in the village of Let Pan Gyi. They also set fire to 13 houses in the Let Yet Kone village of Shwebo municipality, the scene of a junta attack on a school in September that the UN described as a war crime.

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In the north of Khin-U municipality, another 146 houses in four villages have burned down, according to locals. RFA has been unable to confirm the claims.

Aye Hlaing, spokesman for Sagaing’s State Administration Council, who is also the region’s social affairs minister, told RFA he was unaware of the incidents. He said the internet had been shut down due to the destruction of communications towers in Khin-U township and that telephone lines were also unreliable.

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According to residents and local People’s Defense Forces (PDFs), between the coup on February 1, 2021 and the end of October 2022, a total of 1,856 houses from 47 villages in Khin-U municipality were set on fire by junta forces. They said 218 people, including PDF members, were killed.

According to an October 31 report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA), some 612,400 residents of the Sagaing region were forced to leave their homes because of the conflict over the past 21 months.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Written in English by Mike Firn.