MAGWAY, Myanmar: A village in the centre of Myanmar has been burned down after clashes between the military and local guerrillas, leaving at least two people dead.
Residents said that 200 of the 240 houses in Kin Ma were razed to the ground by the military on Tuesday.
They said the incident began after forces clashed with a local militia opposed to the governing regime.
Dan Chugg, UK ambassador to Myanmar, has condemned the attack.
“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,” a Facebook post read. State television however blamed the fire on “terrorists”.
MRTV reported that any media that suggested another cause was “deliberately plotting to discredit the military”.
One resident told new agencies that security forces clashed with a People’s Defence Force (PDF) on Tuesday. Such groups were formed in the wake of the recent military coup and have started to fight against the police and military with homemade weapons.
“When the PDF members drew back, they [the security forces] came into the village and started to set alight the houses in the southern part,” the resident said. “Almost the whole village was burned down to ashes.”
Another resident said the villagers fled into the woods outside Kin Ma after troops opened fire. Two elderly people however could not run and died in the fire, locals said, while a few more were reported missing.
“The fire was everywhere in the village and we saw big flames,” the resident said. “We had to flee for our lives from gunfire and we had to watch it from a distance.”
Fire razes a Myanmar village, killing four elderly people. Residents of Kin Ma village in central Myanmar’s Magway region told RFA that military forces set the fire. pic.twitter.com/99sxfsBzoR
— Radio Free Asia (@RadioFreeAsia) June 16, 2021
The fire was so large it was recorded by Nasa’s satellite fire-tracking system at 15:22 GMT on Tuesday.
Myanmar’s military seized power in February, alleging voter fraud in general elections held the previous year – a vote independent election monitors say was largely free and fair.
Demonstrations spread across the country after the coup. Security forces responded with a brutal crackdown, killing more than 800 people and detaining close to 5,000.
Photographs and videos taken of the aftermath of the fire in Kin Ma showed a thin haze of smoke above the village from white embers that smouldered on blackened ground.
Burned planks of wood, sheet metal, bricks and cooking pots were scattered around, with only a few trees left standing. Some images showed animal carcasses.
“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,” the United Kingdom’s embassy in Myanmar said on Twitter, quoting its ambassador Dan Chugg.
Human rights groups have accused Myanmar’s forces of burning hundreds of villages in 2017 during an offensive that drove hundreds of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya into neighbouring Bangladesh.