Myanmar Spring Chronicle – September 08 Scenes
Published by MoeMaKa on September 09, 2023
The Alarming Toll: Over 75,000 Civilian Homes Destroyed in Post-Coup Myanmar
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) has recently revealed a staggering statistic – more than 75,000 civilian buildings have been set ablaze in Myanmar since the military coup. These structures encompass a broad range of civilian infrastructure, including residential homes, markets, schools, monasteries, churches, private businesses, and offices.
The vast majority of these devastating fires have consumed residential houses in villages, accounting for over 90% of the total. One particularly tragic example is the town of Thantlang, which has been repeatedly subjected to extensive fires, leaving it virtually razed. While Thantlang stands out, there are other towns that have also fallen victim to these destructive infernos. Many of these affected areas are located in Sagaing Region, Magway Region, Tanintharyi Region, Karen State, Karenni State, and select areas of Shan State.
The primary perpetrators behind these acts of arson are the armed forces of the military council. In some cases, civilian homes associated with supporters of the military council have been targeted in acts of retaliation.
The military council employs house-burning as a strategic tactic. Their troops systematically set villages on fire, particularly those harboring People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) engaged in opposition to the military council. Villages that lend support to the PDFs or are in close proximity to interceptive attacks and mine incidents involving military council troops are often deemed responsible and subjected to these arson attacks. Additionally, the military council seeks to cripple the financial resources of the PDFs and defense forces by destroying homes, along with rice and other essentials. Given that most villages extend support to the PDFs, and that villagers themselves have taken up arms as part of the PDFs, there is a discriminatory pattern of arson based on whether a village supports the National League for Democracy (NLD) or PDFs versus the Union Solidarity and Development Party (USDP) or the military.
In some instances, divided villages have been coerced into identifying houses belonging to NLD/PDF supporters, only for these homes to subsequently be set ablaze. Certain townships in Sagaing have seen the emergence of militias in villages that support military forces. These militias are armed and trained to confront the PDFs.
The military council, in essence, the military itself, has shown no hesitation in arresting, torturing, killing, or destroying the homes of individuals it deems as enemies or supporters of the enemy. This practice of burning civilian homes during armed conflicts is a well-established strategic approach for the Myanmar military. Notable incidents include the burning of Rohingya villages in 2017 in northern Rakhine State and the torching of Rakhine villages during clashes with the Arakan Army (AA) in Rakhine State in 2018-19. Similar incidents occurred in the 1990s in Shan State and Karen State, resulting in long-lasting consequences for affected populations.
In sum, the intentional burning of civilian homes in villages during armed conflicts is a deeply ingrained military tactic in Myanmar, and it has tragically resurfaced in the wake of the military coup, leaving an indelible mark on the entire nation.