A village in central Myanmar was set on fire by the military junta, killing at least two people and reducing some 200 houses to piles of ash and rubble, residents told local media.
Security forces set fire to the village of Kin Ma, in the Magway region, on Tuesday afternoon after fighting with opponents of the junta, according to residents. More than 1,000 people are taking refuge in the forest and nearby villages, while at least two older people, who had not been able to flee, were burned to death, villagers said. Irrawaddy news site.
State television MRTV blamed “terrorists” for the fire and said that media reporting otherwise was “deliberately conspiring to discredit the military.” MRTV said 40 “terrorists” set fire to a house in Kin Ma, causing a fire that spread to 100 of the 225 houses in the village.
However, residents told Reuters that only 30 houses remained in the village, while some 200 houses had been burned to the ground. The fire was large enough to be recorded by NASA’s satellite fire tracking system at 9.52 p.m. Tuesday, the news agency reported.
Photographs of the village showed a haze of smoke over piles of rubble, where houses once stood. Burned planks of wood, sheet metal, bricks, and cooking pots were scattered everywhere, with only a few trees left standing. Some images showed animal carcasses.
Dan Chugg, UK Ambassador to Myanmar, said in a statement: “Reports that the junta has burned down an entire village in Magway, killing elderly residents, show once again that the army continues to commit terrible crimes and has no regard for by the people of Myanmar. “
Myanmar’s military is already accused of burning hundreds of villages in 2017, during a brutal crackdown that forced some 700,000 Rohingya Muslims to flee to Bangladesh, and which has since led to a genocide case in The Hague. Security forces denied setting fires and even blamed the Rohingya for doing so in some cases.
According to interviews with the medium Myanmar now, security forces arrived in Kin Ma on Tuesday looking for a man suspected of shooting at the home of an allied junta official in another village. After fighting with opponents of the coup on the outskirts of the village, and apparently losing 15 soldiers, junta forces set the village on fire, locals told the outlet. The Guardian was unable to verify the claims.
The takeover of power by the military initially sparked large protests, where millions took to the streets to demand the return of democracy. However, the security forces unleashed brutal forces against the protesters, repeatedly opening fire on peaceful marches and cornering activists during nightly raids. As street demonstrations have subsided, some have taken up arms to protect their communities and oppose the junta.
UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar Tom Andrews earlier this month warned of the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian and security situation in some parts of the country, where he said the junta’s bombs had displaced more than 100,000 people. People who had been forced to flee their homes were at risk of mass deaths from hunger and disease, he said in a grim warning.
The army has killed more than 860 civilians since taking power in a coup on February 1, according to the Political Prisoners Assistance Association (Burma), a rights group that tracks victims and arrests.