25 May 2021
Moe Bye Police station attacked by local defence forces
One of the first flashpoints in the conflict was an attack on a Myanmar police outpost in Myanmar’s north. The Moebye Police Station was a defended position within an area that had seen a rise in small clashes between the military and local PDF groups.
The attack is reported to have been a retaliation for a police raid on a funeral just days earlier. The police detained eight people at the funeral.
After a three-hour battle, PDF groups reportedly broke through the police station’s defences and overran the station. We collected graphic footage of trenches (available on request) lined with bodies of police officers, and other evidence of a pile of bodies close to the station’s headquarters.
This attack on the outpost marked a critical moment in the conflict. It showed that PDF groups were able to plan, organise, and overrun Myanmar security forces facilities. The attack was a turning point in how the Myanmar military approached protecting civilians in their operations. Their response was to shell numerous buildings in Moebye, destroying surrounding areas and target homes, resulting in mass deaths and displacement.
In the days after the attack, local media (Irrawaddy, Myanmar Now) reported that the military had imposed daytime curfews in Moebye and Loikaw. Myanmar Now reported that about 50 youths were arrested and released after questioning about the attack. The report also claimed that more than 10,000 villagers from the surrounding area fled their homes and that many inside Loikaw were unable to leave due to the military operation against PDF fighters in response to the storming of the police station.
One resident said: “Some people don’t want to leave, but those who do can’t anyway, because there’s no way out. They’re afraid they’ll be shot at if they try to leave” (Myanmar Now).
A number of social media claims of civilian homes hit with artillery have been identified, however remain unverified due to lack of updated satellite imagery. A series of images uploaded by Irrawaddy from 25 May also shows the destruction of a farmhouse in Loikaw due to shelling. These images are unverified, but remain consistent with numerous other claims of shelling in the area.