Church helps people fleeing clashes in Myanmar

Myanmar prez says country at risk of breaking apart, China confirms casualties as fighting spills over border

UCA News reporter

Updated: November 10, 2023 05:44 AM GMT

This handout photo taken and released on Oct. 28 by the Kokang Information Network shows members of the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army walking past a Myanmar military base after seizing it during clashes near Laukkaing township in Myanmar’s northern Shan state. (Photo by Handout / Kokang Information Network / AFP)

Church groups are helping evacuate and shelter hundreds of civilians including Christians as fighting escalated in conflict-stricken Myanmar.

At least 600 people, mostly Catholics, have taken refuge inside a Cathedral and catechist's center in Lashio town after fleeing from surrounding areas in northern Shan state where intense fighting between military and rebel forces has been going on since Oct. 26.

Edward, a church social worker from Lashio diocese said, The Church is trying to provide humanitarian assistance to them with Lenten contributions and help from the diocese.

Hundreds of others took shelter in Baptist churches and Buddhist monasteries in Lashio town and were helped by civil society groups and private donors, he told UCA News on Nov. 8.

Edward, who goes by one name, said the church workers were also providing cash assistance through the local parish priests in some areas they could not reach out to due to the fighting.

A parish in Hsenwi town which belongs to the Lashio diocese has been abandoned by priests, nuns, and parishioners after the Catholic Church and convent were damaged due to shelling and an airstrike.

There were no casualties as the priests and nuns had taken refuge at a nearby safe place, a church source who declined to be named told UCA News.

The source said communication was down except for one mobile network and it was difficult to know the ground situation in most conflict areas.

Nearly a thousand people have been trapped while on their way from Laukkai town, near the China border, to Lashio town, BBC Burmese reported on Nov. 8.

The United Nations (UN) has expressed alarm over the escalating situation in Myanmar due to the new fighting in the last two weeks.

Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that since Oct. 26, nearly 33,000 men, women and children have been displaced. This is causing humanitarian needs to surge, UN Secretary-General's spokesperson Stephance Dujarrice told reporters on Nov.6.

Fighting intensified in the northern Shan state after the so-called three brothers alliance group – Ta'ang National Liberation Army, Arakan Army and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army – launched a campaign codenamed Operation 1027.

The group has reportedly claimed more than 100 military posts and four towns including Chinshwehaw which is close to the Chinese border.

If the government does not effectively manage the incidents happening in the border region, the country will be split into various parts, Myint Swe, president pro tem of the State Administration Council, told a national defense and security council meeting held in capital Naypyidaw on Nov. 8.

Meanwhile, China has been repeatedly calling for a ceasefire and to bring stability along the border region. Beijing confirmed on Nov. 7 that there have been Chinese casualties due to a military ordinance going over the border.

Analysts see the new fighting in Shan state as the biggest challenge for the military junta since the 2021 coup.

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