Myanmar’s security forces killed at least 25 people on Friday in a clash with opponents of the military junta in a city in the center of the Southeast Asian nation, two Myanmar residents and media said on Sunday.
An army spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment on the violence in Depayin in the Sagaing region, about 300 km (200 miles) north of the capital, Naypyidaw.
The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar network said “armed terrorists” had ambushed the security forces patrolling there, killing one of them and wounding six. He said the attackers withdrew after retaliation by security forces.
Myanmar has been thrown into chaos by the February 1 coup against elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with violence erupting in many parts of the country of more than 53 million people.
A Depayin resident, who did not want to be identified for fear of retaliation, said four military trucks dumped soldiers in the village early Friday.
Young people from a local People’s Defense Force, formed to oppose the junta, took up positions to confront them. However, they only had makeshift weapons and were forced back by increased firepower from security forces, the resident said.
“There were people dying on farms and on the railroad. They (the soldiers) shot at everything that moved, ”said another neighbor, who said his uncle was among the dead.
A total of 25 bodies were collected after the clashes, both residents said.
The website of the BBC Burmese service and the Than Lwin Khet News service had similar accounts. Myanmar Now news service put the death toll at no less than 31 and said that some 10,000 people had fled the area.
Reuters could not independently verify the details.
The Depayin People’s Defense Force said on its Facebook page that 18 of its members had been killed and 11 wounded.
The People’s Defense Forces have been founded by opponents of the junta in many parts of Myanmar, some of them in association with a Government of National Unity created clandestinely as a rival to the military administration.
Roughly two dozen armed ethnic groups have fought for decades in Myanmar’s border areas, but Depayin is at the heart of the Bamar ethnic majority, who also dominate the armed forces.
Violence since the coup has driven more than 230,000 people from their homes, says the United Nations. It also says that more than 880 people have been killed by security forces since the coup and more than 5,200 are in detention.
The military authorities have said that these figures are not true, but have not given their own estimates.
The army says its assumption of power was in accordance with the constitution. He alleged fraud in the November elections swept by Suu Kyi’s party, although the accusations were dismissed by the former electoral body.
In another challenge to authorities, Myanmar reported a daily record 2,318 COVID-19 cases on Sunday. The state health system has collapsed after it was abandoned by doctors and other health workers in protest at the military’s takeover of power. (Reuters staff report; written by Matthew Tostevin; edited by Clarence Fernandez and David Clarke)