Christian groups have been deploring that they are under attack after the military coup on February 1. According to them atleast five of their clergymen were killed, many more were arrested and several churches are being damaged by military artillery fire.
Radio Free Asia (RFA) reported that Salai Za Op Lin, deputy executive director of the Chin Human Rights Group, told them that most of the victims were from the Chin state townships of Kanpetlet, Mindat, Matupi and Thantlang.
“Our records show there are nine Christian leaders, including pastors, who suffered at the hands of the junta. Five of the nine were killed,” he said. “Similar things are happening to those in Magway region outside of Chin state.”
For example, Um Kee, a 30-year-old pastor from Kanpetlet’s Otpo village, was arrested from his home on Dec. 11. Two days later, locals found his dead body near the Pan Laybyay Hotel.
Salai Ngwe Kyar, a Christian pastor from Thekkedaung village, in Magway’s Saetottara township, was arrested on allegations that he belonged to the anti-junta People’s Defense Force (PDF) militia on Dec. 6 by soldiers from the local No. 20 Regiment. Locals said he died at Magway Hospital on Dec. 9 from injuries sustained during interrogation.
The military also arrested Naing Kone, a pastor from Ngalai village in Matupi township on Sept. 23. It was not until Nov. 17 that his family was informed of his death, according to residents.
Kyon Byat Hom, a clergyman who went to help put out a fire at a home in Thantlang following clashes between the military and fighters with the Chin Defense Force (CDF) militia, was shot to death on Sept. 19.
During the last 10 months after the military coup, the military has killed at least 1,377 civilians and arrested nearly 8,300 others, mostly during widespread peaceful protests of the junta. The military has also launched offensives against several armed ethnic groups and pro democracy militias in the country’s remote border regions.
In Chin state, where the military is fighting the CDF, government troops have set up camp in Chin Christian churches and in some cases destroyed religious buildings with heavy artillery or arson, according to residents.
The Chin Human Rights Group estimates that more than 30 churches have been destroyed in Chin state in the nearly 11 months since the coup.
Venerable Ngun Htaung Man, the head of the Chin Baptist Association, called it “unacceptable” that religious leaders have been killed and sacred sites destroyed on the junta’s watch.
Dave Eubank, head of the Christian humanitarian service movement Free Burma Rangers, said the attacks against Christian homes and businesses in the area are due to resistance to the regime, rather than targeting a particular faith. However, he said that “I do not see a large policy directed towards Christians, it’s just Christians are in the way.”
The source in Loikaw said the Tatmadaw have attacked churches and homes with drone and air strikes, mortar and small arms fire, killing noncombatants and driving thousands into the nearby forests and mountains. “The church is under attack” in Kayah State, he said, both the “People of God” and church buildings.