Burmese security forces killed at least 25 people in clashes with opponents on Friday in a town in the country’s central region in Southeast Asia, residents said.
The conflict took place in Depayin, in the Sagaing region, about 300 kilometers north of the capital, Naypyidaw.
Myanmar has seen clashes between the military and opposition groups since the coup that toppled elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi from power in February. According to the United Nations, more than 880 people have died in these conflicts.
In some areas, civilians organize themselves into armed groups, called the Popular Defense Forces, to fight the military, most often with hunting rifles or homemade weapons.
The Saigaing region, in particular, has seen an increase in clashes between these groups and the military. Fighting broke out in Depayin County on Friday.
According to residents interviewed by AFP, soldiers arriving in trucks opened fire on a village near the jungle in an attempt to dislodge members of the local defense group.
“We heard artillery fire 26 times,” said one resident. “They shot at everything that moved on the road and in the village,” he added, noting that several civilians were among the victims.
Residents waited until the next day to leave their homes safely and count the casualties, according to another witness, who helped retrieve the bodies around Depayin.
“We first found nine bodies which we buried” on Saturday, he said, adding that eight other victims had been found by another team. This Sunday, eight new bodies were discovered in the region.
“I noticed that most of the victims were shot in the head,” he said, a sighting confirmed to AFP by another person who attended the funeral.
According to the same source, the military presence is increasing in the region, leading to the displacement of thousands of inhabitants who fear a new attack.
The government-controlled Global New Light of Myanmar newspaper said “armed terrorists” ambushed security forces patrolling the area, killing one and wounding six. The group retreated after retaliation from security forces, who recovered four mortars and six guns, the newspaper said.
Violence since the coup has driven more than 230,000 people from their homes, according to the United Nations, and 5,200 others are imprisoned, in addition to nearly 900 dead by security forces.
The military junta says this data is not true, but does not release its own estimates.
The military says the takeover took place in accordance with the Constitution. They claim a diploma in the November elections, even if the charges are denied by the electoral authorities.
Despite threats of repression, demonstrators continue to take to the streets daily to challenge the military regime.
This Sunday, in Sagaing, residents organized short demonstrations, making the three-fingered salute a symbol of resistance.