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Resurgence of violence in Moe Bye

Myanmar Witness

1 Feb 2023

Report Published:

Children killed, religious buildings destroyed

Key Event Details

  • Location of Incident: Hpar Lai Nang Pei (ဖါလိုင်နန်းပဲ) (also known as Warisu Palai (ဝါရီဆူးပလိုင်)) [19.720360, 97.094048] and Moe Bye town (မိုးဗြဲမြို့) (also spelt Moebye or Mobye), Pekon Township (ဖယ်ခုံမြို့နယ်), southern Shan state (ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်တောင်ပိုင်း) [19.744369, 97.093033]. 

  • Date/Time of Incidents: Multiple dates

    • Armed clashes: 8-12 September 2022

    • Attack on the Pagoda: 16 September 2022

  • Alleged Perpetrator(s) and/or Involvement: 

    • State Administration Council (SAC)

    • People’s Defence Force (PDF)

    • Karenni National Defence Forces (KNDF)

    • Karenni Revolutionary Union (KRU)

    • Urban Revolutionary Front (URF)

    • Karenni Generation Z (KGZ) 

  • Summary of Investigation:

    • Clashes in Moe Bye lasted for five consecutive days and led to the destruction of residential, commercial and public structures and allegedly the death of a child.  

    • SAC troops appear to have occupied Mary Mother of God church (ဘုရား၏သန့်ရှင်းသော မယ်တော်ဘုရားကျောင်း). 

    • Myanmar Witness has verified the presence of Chinese made K-8 fighter jets, which were spotted above the town on several occasions.

    • At least four people, including two children, were allegedly killed as shells hit the Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား) on 16 September 2022.


[Warning: Graphic] This report contains graphic information.

Moe Bye (မိုးဗြဲမြို့) has been a site of frequent clashes since the February 2021 Coup. Following the deaths of up to 20 SAC troops in nearby Warisu Palai village (ဝါရီဆူးပလိုင်), south Shan state (ရှမ်းပြည်နယ်), on the 8 September 2022, the SAC launched an attack on Moe Bye town. 

To read the full report, download the PDF.

Figure: A localised map of Moe Bye [19.744369, 97.093033], Loikaw (လွိုင်ကော်) [19.674081, 97.211209] and Naypyidaw (နေပြည်တော်) [19.763289, 96.078507]. (Map created using Datawrapper).

This investigation has looked at clashes between the SAC troops and local defence forces from 8-16 September 2022. The clashes represent another flashpoint in the ongoing conflict. 

Myanmar Witness verified footage showing the widespread destruction of the town, including civilian properties, the library, the market and sites of worship. 

Figure: [Top Left] Claimed damage to a civilian building geolocated by Myanmar Witness to 19.746133, 97.090071 (source: Mobye News); [Top Right] damage to stand in Moebye’s market, geolocated by Myanmar Witness to 19.745289, 97.093046 (source: Mobye News); [Bottom Left] destruction of a library in Moebye’s Pwe Kone ward 3, geolocated by Myanmar Witness to 19.741003, 97.088132 (source: Karenni’s Voice). [Bottom Right] further imagery of the library (source: Karenni’s Voice).

Additionally, Myanmar Witness has investigated claims of both civilian and military casualties and verified the presence of Chinese made K-8 fighter jets in the area.

Figure: SAC K-8 fighter jet in Moebye (source: JFK Page 3).

Heavy fighting near the Mary Mother of God church and the death of a child were reported on 9 September 2022. Myanmar Witness was unable to verify the time or location of the child’s death; however, multiple pieces of user-generated content (UGC) were identified showing the child at a medical facility operated by the Mobye PDF Rescue Team (MPRT). 

Figure: Image of the child who was allegedly injured in Moe Bye on 8 September 2022, but was later claimed to be pronounced dead (source: Free Burma Rangers).

By the time the SAC temporarily withdrew on 12 September 2022, over 100 buildings were reportedly destroyed, up to 60 SAC soldiers killed and 3 local defence fighters killed, alongside several civilian casualties. 

The Mary Mother of God Church

SAC troops allegedly stationed themselves in the Mary Mother of God Church (ဘုရား၏သန့်ရှင်းသော မယ်တော်ဘုရားကျောင်း). Myanmar Witness has identified and geolocated multiple pieces of UGC which indicates that it might have been the epicentre of the fighting. The verified footage shows the destruction of the church’s compound, including bullet holes, blood stains, broken windows, barricades and ammunition. Additionally Myanmar Witness has verified footage of local defence forces firing towards the church. 

Figure: [Top] The interior of the church, identified by Myanmar Witness as Mary Mother of God church (ဘုရား၏သန့်ရှင်းသော မယ်တော်ဘုရားကျောင်း) in Moe Bye [19.740249, 97.090073] (source: Karenni’s Voice). [Bottom] Uniform of SAC 66 LID and blood stains in Mary Mother of God church (ဘုရား၏သန့်ရှင်းသော မယ်တော်ဘုရားကျောင်း) in Moe Bye, posted on 13 September 2022 (sources: JFK Page 3, MPA).

Figure: Mary Mother of God church (ဘုရား၏သန့်ရှင်းသော မယ်တော်ဘုရားကျောင်း) in Moebye in July 2022 (left) and September 2022 (right) showing potential bullet holes and shrapnel on its exterior (sources: MBPDF, Karenni’s Voice).

Locating deceased SAC soldiers 

Images of deceased SAC soldiers circulated online. Due to various factors present within the UGC, and consistent with the church compound, Myanmar Witness believes these images to be from within the Moe Bye context.

Figure: Corpses of SAC troops, claimed to be in Moe Bye posted on 11 September 2022 (source: KNDF-B03).

Figure: Annotated Google Earth Map showing the possible location of the deceased SAC troops, as well as other locations of interest, geolocated by Myanmar Witness. 

The Mwedaw Pagoda Attack

On 16 September 2022, the Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား), which was housing people sheltering from the fighting, was allegedly hit with heavy artillery. 

Figure: Location map of Mary Mother of God church (ဘုရား၏သန့်ရှင်းသော မယ်တော်ဘုရားကျောင်း) [19.740249, 97.090073] and Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား) [19.738460, 97.095310] in Moe Bye (Map created using Datawrapper).

Figure: Damage to a building, geolocated by Myanmar Witness to Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား) [19.738330, 97.095503] (source: Khit Thit Media).

Four people, including two minors were reportedly killed. Myanmar Witness was able to geolocate imagery showing multiple sites of impact, as well as blood stains. 

Figure: Geolocation of blood stains in Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား) (sources: Top left: The Voice of Karenni; bottom left: Kayan Generation Youth; top right, middle and bottom right images sources redacted for privacy concerns).

Figure: Mapped impact locations in Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား). Created with Google Earth. 

Myanmar Witness also analysed imagery of the deceased children. According to a member of the rescue team quoted by Myanmar Now, the two killed minors were sisters aged 7 and 10. 

Figure: [Top] Casualties in Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား), identified by Myanmar Witness to be located at 19.738180, 97.094883 (source: Kayan Generation Youth). [Bottom] Time stamped images of the corpses from Mwedaw Pagoda (မွေတော်ဘုရား) in the unknown funeral location, posted on 16 September 2022 (source: MRT).

Myanmar Witness will continue to monitor events such as these in Moe Bye, as clashes between armed groups put civilian lives at risk. 

To read the full report, download the PDF. 

[Warning: Graphic] This report contains graphic information.

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