Fighting near Gangaw Township in the northwestern Magway region began on Thursday, two days after a call for a national uprising was launched by the National Unity Government, an opposition organization seeking to coordinate resistance to military rule.
The fighting erupted when more than 100 soldiers arrived in four military vehicles to secure the area in Myin Thar and five other neighboring villages, a resident told the PA by telephone.
Members of a lightly armed village self-defense militia fired warning shots, but could not prevent the soldiers from entering the area and clashes continued after that, said the resident, who requested anonymity to protect his personal safety.
The opposition movement that rose up against the military takeover in February of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was initially peaceful, but gradually began to strike back after the security forces used force. murderous to break up nonviolent protests.
The government’s call for national unity on Tuesday for a “popular defensive war” received an enthusiastic response on social media, but its real impact on the ground is difficult to measure.
Opposition-friendly media reported an explosion of small-scale shootings and sabotage by the resistance, particularly the overthrow of cellphone transmission towers.
But similar activities have been going on for several months, and the details are difficult to independently verify.
The villager who described the new fighting said at least 11 members of the vigilante group were killed, according to what others in his village told him. Photos of what were described as their bodies circulated widely on the internet on Friday and were clear enough to be identifiable by those who knew them.
“We only have hand-made guns and percussion guns,” the villager said. “When it rained, guns became useless. There are a lot of casualties due to the imbalance of weapons. Myanmar government troops are well equipped with modern weapons and have access to air and artillery support.
The villager said other residents told him most of the village’s defense force were young people and five of those killed were grade 9 and 10 students. A middle school teacher was also reportedly killed, the villager said.
Members of the area’s more than 2,000 households fled into the jungle, he added, while soldiers camped in abandoned houses and the local Buddhist monastery. Four more people were confirmed dead after fighting broke out again on Friday morning, he said, and an unknown number of houses were set on fire.
Independent media reports put the death toll among the villagers at 20 or more. Khit Thit Media, an online news service, said villagers told him the dead included seven non-combatants in addition to the militants.
According to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, an independent organization that keeps detailed counts of those killed or detained by the military government, there have been 1,058 activists and bystanders killed since the army took over in February. .
The government claimed this week that resistance forces were responsible for the deaths of 933 people, Popular News reported, citing Deputy Home Secretary Gen Soe Tint Naing.
In a briefing Thursday for foreign diplomats which was also attended by the press service, Soe Tint Naing said those killed included security personnel, officials and those considered by the police. resistance as government informants.