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Myanmar junta kills 4 civilians in tea shop shelling

Junta shelling killed four civilians and injured seven others in Myanmar’s Sagaing region, locals told Radio Free Asia on Tuesday. 

The army turned its big guns on Monywa township, where junta troops were accused of burning homes and bodies, as well as arresting children and elders last December.

All the dead and injured in Hta Naung Taw village are men, said one local, declining to be named for security reasons. The injured are stable and their wounds are not life-threatening, he added.

A shell exploded directly on a crowded tea shop in the village center, he said, adding that it was fired by a junta battalion based in Ma Au village on the Monywa-Mandalay road.

“It dropped straight on the tea shop. The dead include a cattle broker from Kya Paing village and two brothers from Hta Naung Taw tea shop. Another one is a passenger who was having some tea,” he told RFA Burmese.

RFA contacted Sagaing region’s junta spokesperson Sai Naing Naing Kyaw for more details about the shelling, but he had not returned the calls at time of publication. 

The army opened fire on the village in retaliation after a battle in Hta Naung Taw 10 days ago between local defense forces and junta troops, residents said.

Press-gangs in Monywa

Elsewhere in Monywa, locals claim the junta’s conscription efforts have increased after regime leader Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing announced on Saturday he would immediately enforce the country’s People’s Military Service Law. The law forces men aged 18-35 and women aged 18-27 to serve for two years in the regime’s military. Professionals from a larger age bracket must serve for three to five years. 

Junta police forces at a checkpoint in Monywa city on Nov. 21, 2021. (Citizen journalist)

Following the announcement, junta troops seized nearly 50 men on Sunday, locals said. 

Soldiers arrested roughly 20 people in Monywa’s Myawaddy neighborhood, including some sitting in a teashop on Sunday morning, witnesses said. They rounded up 28 more from public areas around the city.

A Monywa resident who requested anonymity for security reasons said soldiers have been roaming the city in plain clothes, preying on locals, and conducting checks and arrests. Given that those arrested are between the ages of 18 and 35, some locals in the same age range have gone into hiding for fear of being conscripted, he said.

“They often wander around the city and catch people. There are four to 10 soldiers in one place spreading out all over the city and conducting checks and arrests,” said the man.

“They could be held at Monywa City Hall. I heard that some of them were being released after paying money. I don’t know how much.”

Another Monywa resident said the city remained quiet until Monday morning, when people came out to do their shopping.

Military-backed channel Myanmar Radio and Television called the reports fake news. 

Also Sunday morning, nearly 40 passengers traveling on the Mandalay-Monywa road near Lel Gyi village, Sagaing township, were held by troops for interrogation, residents said. RFA has been unable to find out whether they have been released.

According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, more than 26,000 people have been arrested in the three years since the coup, as of Tuesday.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Mike Firn.