Soldiers from Myanmar’s military government raided a village in the country’s central region, killing 19 villagers, including four children, and burning their bodies, independent media and a resident reported on Friday.
Wednesday’s killings in Nyaung Pin Thar village in Htantabin town in the Bago region may have been in retaliation for an attack by resistance forces opposed to the army’s rule.
Radio Free Asia, a US-funded news service, quoted a member of the locally formed People’s Defense Force as saying the killings occurred after fighting that same day between the army and his group and its Karen National Liberation allies Army, a rebel ethnic group operating on the territory. He said resistance forces killed 20 soldiers and captured three officers.
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A farmer in the village told the Associated Press that he lost his wife, 7-year-old daughter and nine other relatives in the raid by about 10 soldiers.
The farmer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared arrest, said he was working in the fields and did not return on Wednesday after being informed that soldiers had entered the village, so he did not witness the killings.
When he returned the next day, his family members were gone and he found charred bodies beyond recognition in two places in the small village.
“They kill people as easily as they kill a chicken or a bird. At least they should have released the children, who don’t understand anything, for humanitarian reasons,” said the farmer.
He said 19 people were killed, and it appeared that they were shot in the head before their bodies were burned using petrol and diesel fuel taken from a shop in the village. He said the soldiers also took beer and alcoholic beverages which they consumed.
Reports of the killings, along with what were said to be photos and videos of the victims’ remains, also appeared in independent Myanmar media and social media on Friday, the same day a human rights monitoring group released a report in which he accused the Myanmar army of deliberately carrying out atrocities, including beheadings, to instill terror in those fighting the army and in a public already appalled by the barbarity of the military.
Rights group Myanmar Witness has singled out an army unit dubbed the Pillar of the Ogre for its brutality in the central Sagaing region, which is considered part of Myanmar’s traditional heartland.
Sagaing is a stronghold of armed resistance to the ruling army, which seized power on February 1, 2021 from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The military takeover triggered mass nonviolent protests that were put down with lethal force, sparking armed resistance across the country.
Myanmar Witness said its investigation into eight incidents in late February and early April found that at least 33 villagers were killed, 12 of whom were beheaded and two dismembered by the Ogre Column and by other units.
Most of the decapitated victims were left on grotesque display.
“In a number of these cases, people were killed and then beheaded. Because the beheadings serve no functional purpose, they present a dramatic and horrific warning to those resisting military rule,” the report said.
It said the orc column is part of the army’s 99th Light Infantry Division.
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A local defense force leader who cremated the bodies of two decapitated boys killed by the Ogre’s Column in April told the Associated Press he “is tougher to kill than other groups of soldiers.”
The report said the 99th Light Infantry Division, based in the nearby Mandalay region of Sagaing, and the No. 8 in Shwebo town of Sagaing were repeatedly blamed by villagers for most of the killings.
A Myanmar witness said the 99th Light Infantry Division has a history of violence, with allegations of involvement in a brutal 2017 counterinsurgency campaign in western Rakhine state that drove more than 700,000 members of the Rohingya Muslim minority to flee the country. close Bangladesh for safety.
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Myanmar Witness said its findings were based on investigations of images and videos of the aftermath of the incidents and reports in pro-military and independent media.