Report 263 Views

Villages burn in Sagaing

May 29th, 2023  •  Author:   Myanmar Witness  •  4 minute read
Featured image

Satellite imagery analysis reveals the impact of fire across Sagaing

Key Event Details

  • Location of Incident: Multiple villages in Sagaing Township (စစ်ကိုင်းမြို့နယ်), Sagaing Region (စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်းဒေသကြီး):

    • TheInn Sa Village (အင်းစရွာ) [22.118200, 95.694976]

    • Taung Kyar Village (တောင်ကြားရွာ) [22.099079, 95.705261]

    • Mu Thar Village (မူးသာရွာ) [22.106790, 95.658927]

    • Ma Gyi Kone Village (မကျီးကုန်းရွာ) [22.108310, 95.665611]

    • Taung Myo Village (တောင်မြို့ရွာ) [22.080650, 95.667137]

    • Ywar Htaung Village (ရွာထောင်ရွာ)‌ [22.065469, 95.646293]

    • Ywar Thit Village (ရွာသစ်ရွာ) [22.068687, 95.656561]

    • Ta Pa Yin Kwe Village (တပုရင်းကွဲရွာ) [22.049150, 95.669937]

  • Date/Time of Incident: 

    • 20 – 24 April 2023

  • Alleged Perpetrator(s) and/or Involvement: 

    • Light Infantry Division (LID) 99

    • People’s Defence Forces (PDF)

  • Summary of Investigation:

    • It is alleged that the Myanmar military’s LID 99 set fire to eight villages, causing the mass displacement of residents, following PDF activity in the area.

    • Myanmar Witness verified (to varying levels) six of the eight fires through NASA’s Fire Information for Resource Management System (FIRMS), satellite imagery analysis and analysis of user-generated content (UGC). They occurred in villages in close proximity to one another between 20-25 April 2023.

    • Fires in Inn Sa and Ta Pa Yin Kwe villages were verified using FIRMS, Sentinel and UGC.

    • Fires in Mu Thar and Taung Kyar villages allegedly destroyed 400 houses. Myanmar Witness assessed Sentinel imagery and believes that fires occurred between 20-25 April 2023.

    • While no UGC could be geolocated of the remaining villages, FIRMS registered fire data in Ywar Thit on 23 April 2023, and Sentinel data reveals fire damage in Taung Myo and Ywar Htaung villages between 20-25 April.

    • The fires in Ma Gyi Kone (မကျီးကုန်းရွာ) and Taung Kyar could not be verified due to a lack of UGC, FIRMS data or satellite imagery.

    • Following these events, reports of mass displacement and a graphic beheading surfaced online. Myanmar Witness will continue to search for verifiable information.

Summary 

On 20 April 2023, a column of around 100 military personnel entered Sagaing through Myinmu Township (မြင်းမူမြို့နယ်), according to Mandalay Free Press. Eight villages were allegedly set on fire between 20 – 24 April 2023 according to multiple media sources, reportedly causing mass displacement and the destruction of civilian infrastructure. 

According to Khit Thit, the systematic burning of villages by the military was retaliation for a People Defense Force (PDF) attack in Kywei Pon (ကြွယ်ပုံ) — an alleged Pyu Saw Htee aligned village — on 13 April 2023. The unnamed PDF group allegedly attacked the military’s Thingyan festival in Kywei Pon with a drone. According to a report by the Security Administration Council (SAC), eight people, including five children, were killed and 30 others were injured in the attack. Myanmar Witness has been unable to verify these claims. 

Myanmar Witness verified six of the eight fires through FIRMS, satellite imagery analysis and analysis of user-generated content (UGC). They occurred in villages in close proximity to one another between 20-25 April 2023. For example, Myanmar Witness geolocated UGC of the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Inn Sa (အင်းစ) and Ta Pa Yin Kwe (တပုရင်းကွဲရွာ) and chronolocated the UGC to within the time period investigated. 

It is claimed that another two villages, Mu Thar (မူးသာ) and Taung Kyar (တောင်ကြား), were set on fire on 21 April 2023, resulting in the destruction of 400 houses. By analysing the visible changes to the ground on Sentinel imagery, Myanmar Witness believes that it is likely that fires occurred between 20-25 April 2023. 

While no UGC could be geolocated of the remaining villages, FIRMS registered fire data in Ywar Thit (ရွာသစ်ရွာ) on 23 April 2023, and Sentinel data indicates fire damage in Taung Myo (တောင်မြို့ရွာ) and Ywar Htaung (ရွာထောင်ရွာ)‌ between 20-25 April. The fires in Ma Gyi Kone (မကျီးကုန်းရွာ) and Taung Kyar could not be verified due to a lack of UGC, FIRMS data or satellite imagery. 

Social media claims related to these fires, the displacement of civilians, and troop movements places responsibility for the fires and destruction with the Myanmar military. Myanmar Witness has collected these claims; however, has been unable to verify them. The fires occurred in villages in close proximity to one another, in an area where there was alleged PDF activity. Myanmar Witness continues to monitor information related to these events to build a picture for accountability. 

Myanmar Witness has been able to verify the following:

  • Fire in Inn Sa. Geolocation of images of fire-damaged structures, including a monastery, which were likely taken on 21 April 2023. FIRMS and Sentinel data corroborates that Inn Sa was on fire on 21 April 2023.

  • Fire in Ta Pa Yin Kwe. Geolocation of UGC showing burn damage to structures. FIRMS data indicates the fire damage occurred on 23 April 2023.

  • Fire in Ywar Thit. FIRMS data indicates fires on 23 April 2023.

  • Loss of vegetation consistent with fire damage in six of eight villages. Sentinel imagery shows a loss of vegetation, allegedly burned by the military, between 20 April 2023 and 25 April 2023.


Download full report

View the original