Myanmar Junta Troops Set Ablaze Village After Clashing, Locals Say

Myanmar security forces allegedly burn the Kin Ma village, located in Pauk Township, on Tuesday after clashing with opponents of the junta.

At least two elderly people were burned to death, several village residents said Wednesday. MRTV state television reported Tuesday’s blaze in Kin Ma, an 800-people village in the Magway region, saying it was caused by “terrorists.”

MRTV alleged that the media reported otherwise as they were “deliberately plotting to discredit the military.”

However, Reuters couldn’t verify the cause of the fire, and a junta spokesperson did not respond to requests for comments. According to photographs seen by Reuters and comments from several locals who reported the incident by phone, all that remained of Kin Ma on Wednesday was about 30 houses, as 200 homes were reduced to piles of bricks and ashes.

The fire was large enough to be detected by NASA’s satellite fire-tracking system on Tuesday night.

Villagers who spoke under anonymity said that most of the residents remained hidden in nearby forests. Besides, a 32-year-old volunteer helping displaced people from the village said the victims were elderly residents who could not flee the scene during the fire.

MRTV said the blaze, which spread to 100 of the village’s 225 houses, started after 40 terrorists set fire to a home in Kin Ma.

Photographs taken of the aftermath on Wednesday showed a fine haze of smoke over the village that came from white embers smoldering on the blackened ground. Burnt planks of wood, sheet metal, cooking pots and bricks scattered around, and animal carcasses could also be seen.

Only a few trees were left standing after the fire.

Quoting its ambassador Dan Chugg, Britain’s embassy in Myanmar said on Twitter: “Reports that the junta has burned down an entire village in Magway, killing elderly residents, demonstrate once again that the military continues to commit terrible crimes and has no regard for the people of Myanmar.”

In 2017, human rights groups accused Myanmar forces of burning hundreds of villages, forcing 700,000 Muslims belonging to Rohingya minorities to flee to Bangladesh.

Security forces have denied setting fires, blaming the Rohingya for doing so in some cases. However, Western condemnation of the junta has increased due to the army’s excessive use of force against its adversaries.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, the military has killed more than 860 civilians since anti-coup protests began.