At least 15 villagers, including several teenage students, have been killed in some of Myanmar's deadliest fighting since July between government troops and resistance forces, a villager and independent media have reported.
The fighting near Gangaw Township in the northwestern Magway Region started on Thursday, two days after a call for a nationwide uprising was issued by the National Unity Government, a opposition organisation that seeks to coordinate resistance to military rule.
The fighting broke out when more than 100 troops arrived in four military vehicles to secure the area in Myin Thar and five other nearby villages, a resident told The Associated Press by phone on Friday.
Members of a lightly-armed village self-defence militia fired warning shots but could not stop the soldiers from entering the area and clashes continued after that, said the resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity to safeguard his personal security.
The opposition movement that rose against the army's February seizure of power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi was initially peaceful, but gradually began fighting back after security forces used deadly force to break up nonviolent protests.
The National Unity Government's call on Tuesday for a "people's defensive war" has received an enthusiastic response on social media, but its actual impact on the ground is hard to measure.
Media sympathetic to the opposition reported an outburst of small-scale shootings and sabotage by the resistance, particularly the toppling of cell phone transmission towers.
But similar activities have been happening for several months and details are difficult to independently verify.
The villager who described the new fighting said at least 11 members of the self-defence group were killed, according to what others in his village told him. Photos of what were described to be their bodies circulated widely Friday on the internet, and were clear enough to be identifiable to those familiar with them.
Four more people were confirmed dead after fighting broke out again Friday morning, he said, and an unknown number of houses were burned.
"We only have handmade guns and percussion lock firearms," the villager said. "When it rained, the guns became useless. There are many casualties due to the imbalance in weapons." Myanmar's government troops are well-equipped with modern weapons and have access to air and artillery support.
Australian Associated Press