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Burmese city of Mongmit left ravaged after months of battles

Months of intense battles between anti-junta groups and junta forces have ravaged the city of Mongmit in Myanmar’s Shan state, resulting in widespread displacement, lootings and arson, according to locals. 

Currently under junta control, the city was once a battleground where the Three Brotherhood Alliance clashed with junta forces. A ceasefire between the two, mediated by China, was established on Jan. 11, but battles persisted with the Kachin Independence Army, which did not partake in the ceasefire agreement.

After launching attacks on Jan. 18, the KIA, in alliance with the All Burma Students’ Democratic Front and People’s Defense Forces, temporarily took over the city, residents told Radio Free Asia on Friday. 

However, on Jan. 29, the junta forces recaptured the city through a fierce counterattack involving airstrikes and heavy artillery. This offensive led to the destruction of over 200 buildings, including key structures like the market, monasteries, and a school, as well as 100 residential homes.

In this tumultuous period, close to 10,000 inhabitants evacuated the city, abandoning their homes and businesses for extended durations. The resulting void has triggered a wave of robberies throughout the urban neighborhoods, according to locals. 

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The Kachin Independence Army joint forces and the military junta fought in Mongmit city in northern Shan state on Jan. 28, 2024. (Citizen journalist)

A resident, among those who have returned to the city, told RFA that he saw a group of people holding sticks and swords looting houses. 

“They took everything without leaving anything behind. It was a group of people in plain clothes and most of them were criminals in the past,” said the resident who wished to remain anonymous for security reasons.

“They did not even leave the fence door. They took it away and no one dared to say anything. Then they burned homes. It’s already like a ruined city.”

Another woman from Mongmit said that nearly all the shops in the city had been looted, including her own.

“Our shop has been looted and there is nothing left, just like every shop in the city now. It was broken into and our goods were stolen,” she said, declining to be identified for fear of reprisals. “It’s worse where there are no people now, some of them are returning to the city.”

Mongmit and its neighboring city Mabein have been under martial law since Wednesday. 

Shan state’s junta spokesperson, Khun Thein Maung, did not respond to RFA’s inquiries.

According to the Shan Human Rights Foundation’s statement on Tuesday, a total of 27 civilians were killed by heavy artillery and airstrikes from Jan. 1 to Feb. 2, including two mass killings.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Taejun Kang.