Myanmar’s armed forces have killed at least 25 people in a clash with army opponents in a city in the center of the Southeast Asian nation, villagers said on Sunday as people take up arms against the generals. who took power in a coup six months ago.
An army spokesman did not respond to calls from Reuters news agencies calling for comments on the violence in Depayin in the Sagaing region, about 300 kilometers north of the capital, Naypyidaw, which had place Friday.
The new state-run Myanmar World Light said “armed terrorists” had ambushed security forces patrolling there, killing one and wounding six. The attackers were said to have withdrawn after retaliation by security forces.
Myanmar has been plunged into chaos by the February 1 coup against elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi, with protests erupting in many parts of the country and key workers, including doctors and nurses, joining to a movement of mass civil disobedience.
In some areas civilians have formed “defense forces” for take up arms against the State Board of Directors, as generals bend, often using hunting rifles or improvised cobblestones of household items. Some of the groups have been founded in association with a government of national unity established by the elected administration that was overthrown by Senior General Min Aung Hlaing.
The latest violence took place on Friday in the municipality of Depayin, in the central region of Sagaing, about 300 km north of the capital, Naypyidaw.
A Depayin resident, who did not want to be identified for fear of reprisals, told Reuters that four military trucks left soldiers in the village early Friday.
Young people from a local People’s Defense Force, trained to oppose the generals, took up positions to confront them. However, they only had improvised weapons and were forced to return by the stronger firepower of the security forces, the resident said.
“There were people who died on farms and on the railway. They (the soldiers) fired everything that moved, ”said another resident, who said his uncle was among the dead.
A total of 25 bodies had been collected after the fighting, both residents said.
Other residents told the AFP news agency that military trucks entered their area and opened fire on a village near the jungle in hopes of ousting members of the local defense force.
“We heard 26 artillery fire,” said one villager, who added that defensive force fighters tried to retaliate but were unable to defend the attack.
“They shot everyone they saw on the road and in the village. They didn’t just have a goal, ”he said.
Depayin’s People’s Defense Force said on its Facebook page that 18 of its members had been killed and 11 injured.
About two dozen ethnic armed groups have fought for decades on Myanmar’s border lands, but Depayin is at the heart of the Bamar ethnic majority, which also dominates the armed forces.
State media offered a different account of the skirmish, saying the military was patrolling the area when it was ambushed.
The soldiers defended the “armed terrorists” and later found “four mortars and six percussion firearms,” the Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper reported, which did not give a number of deaths to the village.
Villagers waited until Saturday to leave home to assess the casualties, said a member of the local defense force who helped organize the collection of bodies.
“First we got nine corpses and buried them,” he told AFP, adding that eight more were found by a different team and buried the same day.
On Sunday they found eight more bodies.
“I noticed from their bodies that most of them were shot in the head,” he said, an observation that another man who helped move the dead confirmed to AFP.
According to the United Nations, the violence since the coup has expelled more than 230,000 people from their homes. The Association for the Assistance of Political Prisoners, which has been tracking post-coup repression, says at least 888 people have been killed by security forces since February with nearly 5,200 detainees.
The military has discussed the figures, but has not given its own estimates.
He has claimed that his takeover was necessary due to an alleged fraud in last November’s elections, which won the National League for Democracy party of Aung San Suu Kyi in a defeat. His claims have been dismissed by the election commission.