Infamous column of Myanmar junta troops killed 11 in weeklong rampage

Residents of a township in Sagaing region said the Ogre Column decapitated nine of the 11 victims.
By RFA Burmese
Infamous column of Myanmar junta troops killed 11 in weeklong rampage The district police station in Kan Htu Ma village was captured by opposition forces based in Taze township, Sagaing region on Feb. 21, 2024.
(No.1 Military Division)

The military junta’s notorious Ogre Column cut off body parts – including heads – during a weeklong rampage through a Sagaing region township that left 11 men dead, residents and members of local People’s Defense Forces told Radio Free Asia.

The victims were from nine different villages in Taze township and were all males between the ages of 25 and 70, a member of the anti-junta Taze People’s Defense Force told RFA. Nine of the 11 victims were found decapitated, he said.

“Almost all of the corpses had their male organs cut off, their bellies sliced open, their arms, legs, heads and other parts brutally removed,” he said. “In the case of one of the deceased bodies, they cut off the head, applied make-up, adorned it with glasses and even put on cigarettes.”

The Ogre Column, officially part of the Myanmar military’s 99th Light Infantry Battalion, is a unit of killers notorious for their cruelty in a military already known for its brutality.

They’re part of a psychological warfare approach developed by the country’s generals that’s known as “Sit Oo Bi Lu,” the “First wave of brutal attack,” or “Yakkha Byu Har” – “The Ogre Strategy,” according to a former military captain who defected to the rebel side since the junta’s Feb. 1, 2021 coup d’etat.

Displaced people are seen in Taze township, Sagaing region on Sept. 23, 2023. Faces were obscured by source. (Citizen journalist)

Ogre Column troops also raided Taze township and several other nearby townships in March and April of 2023, cutting off limbs and beheading people across Sagaing, which has seen some of the fiercest resistance against the military junta. 

In January, five villagers from Sagaing’s Tabayin township were arrested by the Ogre Column, local residents said. They were also subjected to mutilation of their body parts, they said.

Arrested on his motorcycle

In their most recent appearance in Taze township, the column arrived in Kan Htu Ma village and began burning houses on Feb. 23 – hours after local defense forces had attacked a police station, according to residents.

Over the next week, they attacked villages to the west of Kan Htu Ma village, residents said. They finally left the township on Saturday.

The Taze People’s Defense Force member told RFA that some of the bodies of the 11 men were found on the edges of forested land and in adjacent villages.

One of the victims – a 45-year-old man named San Po – was arrested on Feb. 29 while trying to flee the area on his motorcycle, a resident of Ywar Thit Kone village, who requested anonymity for security reasons, told RFA.

“He said he was afraid of the approaching column and fled to avoid it,” the village resident said. “He can’t run on foot because of his gout disease.”

San Po’s body was found on March 1 on the outskirts of Ywar Thit Kone village, the resident said.

RFA attempted to contact the Minister of Ethnic Affairs, Sai Naing Naing Kyaw, who is the junta’s spokesman for Sagaing region, but he didn’t answer a telephone call.

Former naval Capt. Zay Thu Aung, who now advises resistance forces as part of the country’s anti-junta Civil Disobedience Movement, said junta soldiers are killing civilians and fighters and mutilating some of their bodies because the People’s Defense Forces has prolonged a conflict they expected would be over quickly.

“In such situations where they are unable to think clearly,” he said. “They haven’t seen their families for years, and the ongoing conflict further intensifies their feelings of animosity.”

Translated by Kalyar Lwin. Edited by Matt Reed.


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