Fighting between Myanmar’s security forces and villagers armed with catapults and crossbows in the Ayeyarwady river delta region has left at least three people dead, state media said – although local media reported as many as 20 people had been killed.
State television news said three “terrorists” had been killed and two arrested on Saturday at the village of Hlayswe as security forces went to arrest a man accused of plotting against the state.
A military government spokesman did not answer calls from Reuters news agency requesting comment on the violence at the village in the Kyonpyaw township of Ayeyarwady. Reuters was unable to confirm the toll independently.
Myanmar has been in chaos and its economy paralysed since the military deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February, citing unsubstantiated allegations of fraud during 2020 elections.
Clashes broke out before dawn on Saturday at Hlayswe, some 150km (100 miles) northwest of the main city of Yangon, when soldiers said they had come to search for weapons, at least four local media outlets and a resident said.
“The people in the village only have crossbows and there are a lot of casualties on the people’s side,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.
Khit Thit Media and the Delta News Agency said 20 civilians had been killed and more wounded. They said villagers had tried to fight back with catapults after soldiers assaulted residents.
MRTV state television said security forces had come under attack with compressed air guns and darts. After the shoot-out, the bodies of three attackers had been found, it said.
If confirmed, the toll given by the local media would be the highest in one day in nearly two months.
Local ‘defence forces’
Some 845 people had previously been killed by the army and police since the February coup, according to an activist group. The military government disputes that figure.
Several communities across Myanmar – especially in townships that have seen a high death toll at the hands of police during protests – 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.
Since the coup, conflicts have also flared in the borderlands where some two dozen ethnic armies have been fighting the state for decades.
The anti-military Shwegu People’s Defence Force said it had attacked a police station in northern Shwegu late on Friday together with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Reuters was unable to reach the KIA for comment.
In eastern Myanmar, the MBPDF (Mobye People’s Defence Force) said it had clashed with the army on Friday and four “terrorist soldiers” had been killed.
Despite the turmoil, Myanmar’s army has shown little sign of heeding calls from its opponents to relinquish its hold.
This week, the military government received its first high-profile foreign visitors – the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the two ASEAN envoys.
Protesters in Myanmar’s second city of Mandalay burned an ASEAN flag on Saturday and accused the group of giving legitimacy to military rule.