On Tuesday evening, aircraft flying over Sagaing scattered leaflets warning of imminent strikes on villages in both Indaw and Htigyaing township, residents have told DVB.
In the text, the military states that it is to begin bombing raids within 48 hours, specifying that it would target every village to the north of the Tagaung Taung Nickel Mine, beside the Mandalay-Bhamo Highway Road in Htigyiang township.
Tagaung Taung—a highly controversial joint-venture between China’s CNMC Nickel Company Ltd. and the No.3 Mining Enterprise of the junta’s Ministry of Mines—has long been the subject of intense dispute, with local people claiming that the Chinese firm failed to adequately compensate them for land appropriated as part of the project. Activists have also highlighted the devastating environmental consequences of the mine.
The junta’s leaflet further ordered civilians to mark religious buildings with a letter “M” large enough to be seen from the air upon their roofs. Hospitals and clinics were to be marked with an “H”, and schools and charities with an “S”—the pathological order clearly suggesting that the military had no plans to spare civilians or their homes, leaving many to fear another massacre.
Yesterday morning, military vehicles continued to distribute the leaflets to residents of downtown Htigyiang. Locals informed DVB that troops had also spent Jan. 4, Burma’s Independence Day, handing out the warnings at entrances to Htigyiang and Indaw.
“Everyone in the city is scared to death, and nobody dares to come out. Every checkpoint is inspecting every passerby. Out of fear, everyone is planning to make places to hide—no one knows where to run, because we are all settled farmers,” a farmer in Htigyiang said.
On Jan. 4, one woman was killed and another was injured after two helicopters dropped explosives and fired machine guns at Indaw’s Gahe village. An estimated 800 people have since fled Gahe.
The Htigyaing-Indaw Road has been a hotspot for IED attacks on military convoys, with local PDF groups claiming scores of Burma Army casualties following a string of devastating attacks launched along the highway.