Villagers uncovered 18 charred bodies after junta forces burned homes in a village in central Myanmar, residents and defense forces told Radio Free Asia.
Junta soldiers and the military-backed Pyu Saw Htee militia attacked a village in Monywa township on Saturday morning. Roughly 80 soldiers stationed nearby stormed Kya Paing village and began torching houses, causing locals to flee, Kya Paing residents said.
On Saturday evening, villagers returned to the area and found the bodies of 18 people badly burned near Kya Paing, a member of Monywa township defense forces said.
“We are now cleaning up the fire debris in the village,” he said, declining to be named for security reasons. “The bodies are deformed and only the bones remain. We’re still cleaning and I am praying that we will not find another body again. Up to 170 or 180 houses were burned.”
Because of how badly the bodies were damaged, it is not possible to identify the victims, he added. However, all of them are men between the age of 20 and 50 years old.
Taw Pu village, which is adjacent to Kya Paing, has one military camp occupied by Pyu Saw Htee soldiers. On Friday, a People’s Defense Force attacked the camp, leading some to believe soldiers attacked Kya Paing in retaliation, said a person in charge of the Monywa district People’s Defense Force No. 5 Battalion.
The incident was extremely cruel, said one villager whose house was set on fire, adding he had lost several friends in the attack.
“The bodies were damaged. They were charred. I feel sorry that my friends are among the dead. It was indescribable,” he told RFA on Sunday, declining to be named for fear of reprisals. “This action was extreme and cruel. All the families are split up and have no place to live.”
Junta and Pyu Saw Htee forces left on Saturday afternoon after torching the houses. Villagers found the burnt bodies of 10 men in a centrally-located house after entering the village and extinguishing a fire later that evening. Another was recovered while residents were cleaning up, and eight more bodies were found the next day.
Local organizations are helping families who have lost someone come to identify the men using pieces of clothing and other evidence, said a member of the Monywa- Ah Myint Road Information Group.
“There were some people who were caught by junta troops while working on a farm as the soldiers entered the village. Ten bodies were found in a closed house,” he told RFA, speaking anonymously to protect his identity. “It’s still unknown whether those 10 bodies were burned after shooting them or whether they were burned without being shot.”
About a fifth of the homes in Kya Paing village were burned, locals said.
RFA called Sagaing region’s junta spokesperson Sai Naing Naing Kyaw seeking comment on this incident, but calls went unanswered.
As of Dec. 1, 4,218 civilians have been killed across the country since the military coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.