Junta soldiers burned another 49 houses in the deserted Chin State town of Thantlang on Wednesday, resistance fighters from the Chinland Defence Force (CDF) said.
The soldiers began setting the fires from around 3pm in the afternoon, following an hour-long clash with the CDF that started at 1:30pm, the group said.
Thirty-six houses on Bogyoke road in the town’s Zone Hmon ward burned down between 3pm and 11:30pm, said a spokesperson for the CDF’s Thantlang chapter. The soldiers burned 10 more houses near a police station in the same ward at around 6:30pm, he said.
Another three houses in Site Pyoyay ward were torched at around 11:30pm, he added.
He said it was unclear whether or not junta artillery shells from the early afternoon clash caused some of the fires, but that it was likely the soldiers committed arson after the clash ended.
“The fires at 6:30pm and 11:30pm happened after the shooting and shelling had stopped, so I think they torched the houses on purpose,” he said.
As of Thursday the fires had gone out but smoke could still be seen rising from the town at around 2pm, he added.
During Wednesday’s clash at least one junta soldier was killed by a CDF sniper and there were no casualties among the CDF, he said.
The military council has not commented on the fires or on Wednesday’s clash, but its spokesperson Zaw Min Tun has previously accused the CDF of starting fires in response to accusations of arson by junta soldiers.
Almost the entire roughly 10,000-strong population of Thantlang fled the town in mid-September, when 18 houses and a government building burned down amid artillery fire during a clash between the CDF and the military.
Soldiers shot and killed a local pastor who tried to extinguish the fires and cut off his finger.
In late October the military burned down another 166 houses in the town after a junta soldier was shot dead by the CDF. A soldier posted a photo of himself on social media posing in front of the burning town.
Another 20 houses burned down on November 6, and this week’s fires mean a total of 256 of the town’s roughly 2,000 homes have now been destroyed.
Thantlang has been a ghost town for months, with only junta units stationed on a hill overlooking the town, as well as at a police station.
The CDF estimates that between 150 and 200 soldiers from the Hakha-based Infantry Battalion 226 and Light Infantry Division 101 are stationed in Thantlang.