Civilian homes in a historic Catholic village have been burned down by junta troops in Myanmar for the second time in a month. On June 7, more than two-thirds of some 500 homes were destroyed in fires started during a military raid on the village of Chan Thar in the predominantly Buddhist region of Sagaing.
It is still unclear whether the century-old Church of the Assumption, the convent and the priest's house were damaged or not.
Troops preluded with artillery fire before entering the village, then set fire to houses one after another. No other nearby villages were attacked, a local source said. “Villagers were seen crying as their houses went up in flames,” added a source.
Since January 2022, most of the villagers had already fled their homes to safer areas, including premises annexed to churches and the homes of their relatives in Mandalay and other townships.
The junta is specifically targeting three historic Catholic villages in the Bamar Buddhist heartland of Sagaing to tackle growing resistance against the military rule by the People's Defense Forces believed to be based there.
Chaung Yoe, Monhla and Chan Thar, which are part of the Archdiocese of Mandalay, are known as Bayingyi villages because their inhabitants claim descent from Portuguese adventurers who arrived there in the 16th and 17th centuries. The villages have produced many bishops, priests, religious sisters and brothers.
The latest artillery attack, followed by arson, came nearly three weeks after at least 320 of 350 homes were burned down in Chaung Yoe in a May 20 military raid.
The village was attacked multiple times by troops who shot dead two people, beat three others, destroyed statues, and looted property in a January 10 raid.
The junta's offensive in the Sagaing region continues with artillery fire, airstrikes, and the burning of houses in several villages. Mobile phones and Internet lines are cut in some cantons.
At least 18,900 houses have been burned down across the country since the February 2021 coup, with the Sagaing region being the most affected with 3,840 houses destroyed, according to the latest report from Research Myanmar.
The ongoing conflict, especially in Christian strongholds like Kayah, Chin, Karen, and Kachin states, has resulted in attacks and raids on churches and convents. Priests and pastors were also killed and arrested.
More than 1,900 people, including more than 100 children, have been killed and more than 13,000 people have been arrested since the coup.