Myanmar military destroys religious buildings in Chin State

The Myanmar military has desecrated religious sites in Chin State in what locals say is retaliation for the growing losses sustained by the army in their fight against local resistance forces in the region. 

Three military columns have carried out attacks on villages around Mindat Township in southern Chin State since mid-August, according to a spokesperson for the anti-dictatorship Mindat People’s Administration team. 

During these assaults, the junta’s troops ransacked and then destroyed a church in the village of Chat on August 30, he said, as well as a Buddhist monastery near Khwee Rein village on August 24. 

According to photographs seen by Myanmar Now, furniture was broken and Bibles were destroyed in the Chat village church, and the temple quarters in which the abbot was residing at the Khwee Rein monastery were also looted and left in disarray. 

“They’re not even sparing the religious buildings this time. They have also burned motorbikes, destroyed houses and robbed families,” the people’s administration spokesperson said.

The church in Chat village, Mindat Township, Chin State, after the junta’s attack on August 30 (Supplied)

There were no reported casualties in the attacks on the religious buildings as both the leaders and their congregants had already fled the area due to growing military tension. 

Both a Buddhist monk and a Christian pastor from Chin State spoke to Myanmar Now on the condition of anonymity and implored the junta’s armed forces to spare their communities’ religious sites. 

“One should never harm sacred places like churches or monasteries. It is really hurtful to the people who practice that religion,” the priest said. 

The Mindat People’s Administration spokesperson said that the soldiers who committed the acts belong to the Myanmar military’s 101st and 11th Light Infantry Divisions (LIDs). 

The troops have stolen valuables from the locals in the villages that they occupy, he said, including gold and silver items and traditionally handicrafts such as amber beads. They have also destroyed food supplies by setting them on fire, dumping them in rainwater, or defecating on top of rice piles. 

Myanmar Now was unable to independently verify the reports of theft and the destruction of food stores. 

A resident of the 36-household Taal village in Chin State’s Falam Township—north of Mindat—previously told Myanmar Now that the military raided the village church twice in July and August and destroyed furniture, Bibles and choral songbooks.

The Institute of Chin Affairs, a rights group, declared on August 27 that soldiers’ destruction of civilians’ homes and religious buildings was a violation of the Geneva Convention. 

Religious leaders in Karenni (Kayah) State reported in June that the junta’s armed forces had targeted at least eight churches for attack, including by firing artillery shells at the sites, which were housing internally displaced civilians. 

There have been more than 50 clashes between the junta’s armed forces and local resistance groups in Mindat since April, resulting in significant casualties on the military’s side, including the death of a battalion commander in early August. 

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