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Residents blame security forces for burning village


Residents blame security forces for burning village
A view shows smoke from the fire in Kin Ma Village, Pauk Township, Magway Region, Myanmar in this picture obtained from social media. (Reuters)

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NAYPYIDAW – Security forces set ablaze a village in central Myanmar, after clashing with opponents of the ruling junta, leaving at least two elderly people burned to death, several village residents said on Wednesday.

MRTV state television said the blaze on Tuesday at Kin Ma, a village of about 800 people in the Magway Region, was caused by “terrorists” and that media who reported otherwise were “deliberately plotting to discredit the military”.

Reuters was unable to independently verify the cause of the blaze. A junta spokesman did not answer calls requesting comment.

All that remained of Kin Ma on Wednesday was about 30 houses, with some 200 homes reduced to piles of ash and bricks, according to several villagers who gave accounts of the incident by telephone and photographs seen by Reuters.

The blaze was large enough to be recorded by NASA’s satellite fire-tracking system at 9:52 p.m. (local time) on Tuesday.

The villagers, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said security forces set the fires after confronting opponents of the junta and at least two people were killed.

A 32-year-old volunteer assisting people displaced from the village said the two people killed were elderly residents who had been unable to flee their home during the fire. He said some people returned to the village on Wednesday and found the bodies.

Most of the residents remained in hiding in nearby forests, the villagers who spoke with Reuters said.

MRTV said 40 “terrorists” torched a house in Kin Ma, starting a fire that spread to 100 of the 225 homes in the village.

Myanmar has been gripped by violence and protests since the military overthrew elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, returning as the country’s outright rulers after a decade of tentative democracy and economic reform.

The overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, for alleged electoral violations, sparked protests almost daily in many parts of Myanmar and ignited conflict between the military and rebel groups.

Photographs taken on Wednesday of the aftermath showed a thin haze of smoke above Kin Ma from white embers that smouldered on blackened ground.

Burnt planks of wood, sheet metal, bricks and cooking pots were scattered around, with only a few trees left standing. Some images showed animal carcasses.