ABOUT two dozen members of local resistance forces in central Myanmar were killed in an army ambush as they sought to evacuate villagers ahead of a feared attack by the military, according to resistance members and media reports.
The total number of resistance fighters killed last Friday near Chay Yar Taw village in Sagaing region’s Myinmu township, if confirmed, would be one of the highest totals in a single armed confrontation in the ongoing strife in Myanmar since the army seized power in February 2021, ousting the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The army’s takeover triggered mass nonviolent protests nationwide and the military and police responded with deadly force.
Armed resistance arose in turn, which has since turned into what UN experts have characterised as a civil war.
The army for the past two years has been conducting major offensives in the countryside, including burning villages and driving hundreds of thousands of people from their homes. It has faced some of its toughest resistance in Sagaing, in Myanmar’s historic heartland.
Loosely organised resistance groups opposed to army rule, known as the People’s Defense Force, or PDF, have sprung up around the country and have formed alliances with well-established armed ethnic minority groups that have been fighting the central government for more than half a century, seeking greater autonomy in border regions.
San Shar, a spokesperson for the Black Eagle Defense Force resistance group from Myinmu township, said the ambush occurred Friday night while it and other local resistance groups were evacuating hundreds of civilians southward from Kyawt Min village.
They were bringing the residents to nearby villages including Chay Yar Taw because they expected that soldiers would be raiding Kyawt Min from the north that night.
The area is about 65km west of Mandalay, the country’s second largest city.
Another member of the Black Eagle Defense Force, who asked not to be identified because of fear of reprisals by the military, said on Monday that a truck with villagers went ahead, but stopped en route, and resistance fighters who were trailing behind it in a minivan and on motorcycles sped ahead to catch up with it.
He said they failed to realise that an estimated 30 soldiers in civilian clothes had staked out the spot, and the soldiers easily captured, and then killed the resistance fighters, including five members of his group.
He said the resistance fighters only had home-made weapons and could not resist the much better-armed soldiers. — AP