Burnings and beheadings: Myanmar junta escalates terror tactics against its people

The two young men were covered in blood and had their feet held together by wooden claws.

"What is PDF (PDF)?" their executioners shout. They answer: "Dogs."

Humiliated and dehumanized, the men are tied up and dragged across the rugged terrain with thick chains.

Before dozens of spectators, they hung them from a tree and lit a fire under them.

As the smoke and flames rose, the two men writhed and screamed in agony, their final moments of unimaginable pain and horror captured on video.

Phu Tai was 21 years old, while Thar Htung was only 20 years old.

The two young men left their family farms in northwest Myanmar to join a local armed resistance group following the 2021 military coup, hoping to bring peace and democracy to the Southeast Asian country, their father told CNN.

But they were captured during a battle against the army on November 7 last year and taken to a nearby village, where they were tortured and killed by a pro-junta militia under the watch of Myanmar army soldiers, according to eyewitnesses.

CNN has created a timeline of events, using accounts from more than a dozen witnesses, villagers, resistance fighters, family members and analysts, while analyzing videos and images from the day using open source technologies. These accounts and analyzes point to the ruling army's responsibility for the killings, contradicting its public denials.

The deaths of Phui Thai and Thar Htaung are horrific, but they are not an anomaly in Myanmar, where the military is waging a war of terror against civilians while finding itself increasingly on the defensive in the face of a nationwide armed resistance determined to overthrow him. power.

Multiple sources confirmed that these attacks have increased since the rebel attack five months ago led to significant losses and desertions in the army's ranks.

Through terrorist tactics including arson, beheadings, mutilations and burning of villages, and through a massive aerial bombardment campaign that has displaced nearly three million people, the Myanmar military is attempting to control and divide the population through its entrenched doctrine. of fear and brutality. . Witnesses and analysts say.

Recently, UN human rights chief Volker Türk described the situation as an “endless nightmare”, with “trained soldiers committing atrocities against their own people” in “a chilling disregard for human life”.

CNN reached out to a spokesperson for Myanmar's junta for comment on the killings and attacks on civilians but did not receive a response. The military has repeatedly said it does not attack civilians and often claims resistance forces are committing violence.

Military chief Min Aung Hlaing's coup on February 1, 2021 overthrew the democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, replacing it with a ruling junta and plunging the country into instability and violence. Suu Kyi, who was a state counselor, is now serving a 27-year prison sentence after secret trials.

Widespread popular opposition to the military's forcible takeover and bloody crackdown on protesters, and a nationwide armed resistance movement, including several powerful ethnic rebel armies, have grown over the past three years. of the country, now represents a legitimate threat to the junta.

The Yao Valley lies between the Chin Hills to the west and the dry region of central Myanmar to the east.

The area has been at the center of some of the fiercest fighting between the army and resistance groups, known as the People's Defense Forces (PDF).

Before dawn on November 7, Vu Thai and Thar Htung were part of three columns of the Yao Defense Forces (YDF), one of the civil resistance groups formed after the coup, which proceeded to attack a hospital they believed to be was being used. . As a cache of military weapons.

The hospital was located in the village of Myauk Khin Yan, a pro-junta stronghold in the town of Gangaw in the Magway region, Yaw Lai, a member of the Yemen Defense Forces who uses the nom de guerre of he. He added that there are soldiers deployed there from 2022.

But the rebels were surrounded by intense fire. When the group attempted to retreat, several fighters were wounded while others, including Thar Htung and Phui Thai, broke away, the leader of the "Ninja" platoon, also using his nom de guerre, told CNN.