(UCA News) — At least 49 buildings including a church have been set ablaze in the deserted town of Thantlang in Myanmar’s western Chin state due to shelling by the military.
Thantlang Centenary Baptist Church — where the slain pastor Cung Biak Hum served as a minister — was burned to cinders on Nov. 25, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization.
More than 160 buildings, including two churches, were set ablaze in the town in late October and soldiers were accused of torching houses at random.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) reviewed thermal anomaly data over the town indicating that the city is once again ablaze. The data captured by VIIRS shows active fires in the early hours of Nov. 25, according to Richard Weir, a researcher from HRW.
At least 22 churches have been burned or destroyed by the military along with more than 350 civilian homes in Chin state between August and November, according to local rights groups and Church sources.
The latest military assault on churches and residential buildings came amid growing calls by rights groups and civil society organizations for the UN to take action to stop the military’s violence against the people of Myanmar.
Predominantly Christian Chin state has been at the forefront of some of the strongest resistance to the junta and has witnessed fierce attacks by the military including air strikes, heavy artillery and indiscriminate attacks on civilians while hundreds have been arbitrarily detained and dozens killed.
Prior to the most recent attack, more than 10,000 residents of Thantlang had already fled their homes as the military indiscriminately shot into houses and set off fires by shelling in September.
In recent weeks, the military began sending fresh reinforcements to launch a major offensive against the resistance groups in the region. The UN human rights office has warned that the deployment of troops and heavy weapons by the military may lead to an imminent attack in these areas.
Myanmar’s military has long been accused of committing atrocities, especially in ethnic regions, by resorting to rape, abductions, arbitrary arrests and killings besides vandalizing places of worship and civilian properties.
More than 23,600 people have been displaced in several townships in Chin state since May while 5,200 people were newly displaced as of Nov. 10 and more than 15,000 have already crossed the border with India, according to UN reports.
Catholic and Baptist churches in Chin state, an impoverished region, were targeted by the military in July and August as soldiers camped in the churches and destroyed church property.
Various denominations have condemned the disrespectful acts of the soldiers, including the consumption of alcohol inside places of worship, and called it a violation of the Geneva Convention.
Nearly 1,300 people have been killed by the junta since it seized power and toppled the elected civilian government of Aung San Suu Kyi on Feb. 1.