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Junta troops seize orphanage during battle in central Myanmar

Junta soldiers sheltered in an orphanage in central Myanmar to deter resistance groups from attacking, locals and People’s Defense Forces told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday. 

A junta military camp in Sagaing region’s Tamu township was abandoned by troops in November when it was captured by resistance groups, local People’s Defense Forces said. While attempting to recapture their lost base, junta troops positioned themselves in Kampat city’s orphanage on Sunday. Forty people were in the orphanage at the time, including 36 children and four teachers. 

On Sunday, junta soldiers launched an attack on People’s Defense Forces from outside the building, according to a resistance group official, adding that the troops used heavy and small weapons, as well as airstrikes. 

However, the resistance group removed the teachers and children from the orphanage on Monday, the official added. 

“That orphanage is near the military camp on the hill. The junta troops regained control of that camp on the hill using the orphans as human shields,” he told RFA, asking to be kept anonymous for fear of reprisals. 

“Both the children and the adults in that orphanage tried to escape, but they did not succeed. So they were evacuated by our People’s Defense Forces at around 12 yesterday. Now they are in a safe place.”

The orphanage is owned by a Christian church in No. 1 neighborhood of Kampat city. Nearby are a police station and a temporary military camp on the hill, residents said, which troops regained control of after the battle. 

Intense fighting on the India-Myanmar border near Kampat city has been constant since the end of October. People’s Defense Forces claim to have captured Kampat on Nov. 7.

Almost a month later on Wednesday, junta troops launched an offensive to recapture the city, defense force officials told RFA. Since then, fighting has continued.

On Sunday, the military junta carried out an aerial attack around the Kampat Police Station near the orphanage, he added. 

Calls by RFA to Sagaing region’s junta spokesperson Sai Naing Naing Kyaw seeking comment on the incident went unanswered Tuesday.

Nearly 5,000 residents from four neighborhoods in Kampat city and surrounding villages have fled on Tuesday, some to the Indian border. Fighting has also intensified near Tamu city, making it difficult for locals to find a place to seek shelter, residents said.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.