Myanmar military returns to the strategy of burnings and massacres

BANGKOK (AP), -- The young farmer returned to his village in Myanmar and found the still-smoldering bodies in a circle in a burnt-out hut. Some of them were tied.

Myanmar military returns to the strategy of burnings and massacres

According to the AP, about 50 soldiers were hunting people on foot when the Myanmar military stormed Done Taw at 11.11 a.m. on December 7. He said that the farmhand fled with other villager to the fields and forest, but 10 were taken prisoner and killed, five of them teenagers. His friend took a photo showing the burned remains of a victim, with his head held up. This suggests that he was killed.

"I am very upset, this is unacceptable," stated the 19-year old, who, like other interviewees by the AP, requested anonymity out of fear of reprisal.

According to an AP investigation based upon interviews with 40 witnesses and satellite imagery, the massacre at Done Taw is one of the latest signs that the Myanmar military has reverted to a strategy to massacres as a weapon to war.

The latest in a series of military violence against civilians and growing opposition is represented by the massacres and scorched earth tactics, such as the destruction of entire villages. The military has been brutalizing civilians ever since it seized power in February. It is now abducting young men, killing health workers, and torturing prisoners.

Massacres and burnings signal a return of military practices against ethnic minorities like the Muslim Rohingya. Thousands were killed in 2017, 2017. On Christmas Eve, the military is accused of murdering at least 35 civilians in Mo So, an eastern region that is home to the Karenni minority. Witnesses told the AP that the bodies of many of the children, men and women were not identifiable.

The military is using the same tactics against the villages and peoples of the Buddhist Bamar minority. Most of the recent killings have been concentrated in the northwest, where there is strong opposition support.

Although the violence seems to be an answer to local resistance forces that have been rising up all over the country, the military is also wiping out civilians. According to another villager, the military entered Done Taw after a convoy was hit by a roadside bomb. However, the civilians who were killed were not part in any resistance.

The 48-year old welder stated that they were "just normal workers on the plantation of betel-leaf." They hid because they were afraid.

The AP interviewed dozens of witnesses, relatives, a deserting military commander, officials and human rights groups, as well as analyzing death data from the AAPP. Experts checked the images and videos against known locations and events.

Because they are often committed in remote areas, the numbers will likely be far lower than actual deaths. The military also suppresses information by limiting Internet access and checking phones.

"There are similar cases occurring across the country at the point, especially in northwest Myanmar," Kyaw Moe Tun, who refused leave his post as Myanmar's United Nations envoy, said to the AP. "Look at the pattern, ....look at how it's been done it is systematic and widespread."

The Tatmadaw military was not available to comment on several phone calls and emails. The state-run Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper denied that the killings had occurred three days after the attack at Done Taw. It accused unidentified countries of trying to "disintegrate Myanmar" through inciting bloodshed.

Manny Maung, a Human Rights Watch researcher, said that the nature of this attack is a clear indication of the level of violence we can expect over the next few months.

The AP analysis shows that the military also killed 20 people in Sagaing in the same week as the Done Taw massacre. A witness confirmed AAPP data by telling the AP that nine soldiers were killed in Gantgaw, a township in the neighboring Magway on Dec. 17. The witness stated that troops arrived by helicopter and occupied the village for two consecutive days. Those who fled returned to identify, cremate and place the rotting bodies.

The troop movement suggests that violence in northwest Asia is likely to increase. According to an opposition group, two military convoys with more than 80 trucks carrying troops and supplies from Sagaing made it to Chin state. A former military captain also told the AP that troops in Chin State were resupplied in October and that the army is stockpiling fuel, ammunition, and rations in Sagaing.

He is a 20 year military veteran, deserted in March, and now trains opposition troops. According to him, he still receives updates from his military friends and has access to defense documents. Several of these documents he shared with AP to prove his access. An organization of military deserters also verified his identity.

Zin Yaw stated that the most important thing for the military is losing their power. "In the military, they have a saying that if you retreat destroy all." This means that they will destroy everything, even though they know they will lose.

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