MYANMAR JUNTA TROOPS ACCUSED OF LOOTING ABANDONED VILLAGE
Residents of a village in Kayah State’s Demoso Township said junta forces looted their shops and houses while they were away.
Ngwe Taung villagers fled following clashes between junta troops and the combined forces of the Karenni Nationalities Defence Force (KNDF) and resistance fighters between May 21 and June 12.
Despite a lack of witnesses of the looting, villagers said the regime’s Light Infantry Battalion 427 and Infantry Battalion 102 are based near the village on the Demoso-Loikaw highway. Villagers said junta forces occupied the village during the fighting. Some residents who returned to the village on June 14 said they found their homes had been used by the regime’s soldiers as temporary shelters. Troops remained inside a boarding school in the village when residents returned.
“We fled to Loikaw to avoid fighting along the road. We came back a few days ago after the fighting ceased. My house was ransacked. Our shops were looted and all the valuables taken,” said a Ngwe Taung villager.
The villagers said they left their houses and shops locked but doors were broken open and possessions stolen. Around 20 houses were looted in Ngwe Taung, they said.
“The fighting ceased three days ago so we returned only to find our houses and shops were looted. They smashed my plates, ransacked the wardrobe and damaged the fridge. They took my brother’s television from his house,” said a resident.
A phone shop owner posted on Facebook that his stock had been taken and his safe smashed open.
The military’s official rules of engagement ban stealing and damaging civilian property.
The parallel, civilian National Unity Government shadow defence ministry has adopted a code of conduct for its people’s defense forces, preventing them from looting and vandalizing civilian property.
The KNDF said only junta troops were deployed in Ngwe Taung during the fighting. “Battalions in Demoso looted as they ran out of food during the fighting in Ngwe Taung. Some torched houses after the looting. Villagers know what happened,” said a KNDF spokesman.
Regime spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun rejected the accusations and told The Irrawaddy on Wednesday that the military had nothing to with the looting.
“If the security forces really committed these acts, people can file complaints with us,” he said.
The KNDF and resistance fighters were stationed in the west of Demoso in Dawh Ngan Khar ward during the fighting. Junta forces remain around Ngwe Taung village, including inside a construction site for a Catholic church.
Clashes broke out after junta troops attempted to detain civilians in Dawh Ngan Khar ward on May 21.
The fighting forced thousands to flee their homes. At least 20 Dawh Ngan Khar houses were destroyed or damaged by junta artillery. Junta troops also torched houses by the highway.
Demoso residents have been returning since clashes ceased on June 13. However, there might be more fighting in Demoso, warned the KNDF. The regime has sent at least 200 reinforcements to Demoso, with most stationed at Mt. Sin Ma.