At least three killed as Myanmar villagers battle junta forces

YANGON (AFP) – A clash between Myanmar soldiers and villagers wielding homemade guns left at least three civilians dead in the south of the coup-stricken country on Saturday, state media said, although one witness put the death toll at 12.

Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February and unleashed a brutal crackdown on dissent.

Fighting broke out in Kyon Pyaw in the southern Ayeyarwady region when villagers retaliated after more than 100 soldiers came to arrest members of a local defence force, a villager told AFP. The resident, who did not want to be named, told AFP that 12 civilians – including a four-year-old child – had been killed.

“The villagers don’t have enough weapons and people,” they said, adding that many had fled. One soldier was also killed, they added.

State TV MRTV gave a lower toll, reporting that three civilians had been killed and several members of the security forces had been injured in a clash.

Members of the People’s Defence Force handmake guns to be used in fighting in Kayah state. PHOTO: AFP

Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February, accusing it of fraud during 2020 elections.

More than 800 people have since been killed in a brutal military crackdown on dissent according to a local monitoring group, and fighting has flared up with several ethnic rebel groups.

Several communities across Myanmar – especially in townships that have seen a high death toll at the hands of police – have formed local “defence forces”.

But they are often outnumbered and outgunned in clashes with Myanmar’s military – one of Southeast Asia’s most battle-hardened and brutal.

Envoys from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) held talks with Myanmar’s junta on Friday, with its top general reiterating he would only allow fresh elections once the coup-stricken country had returned to “normal”.