This handout photo from Amnesty International taken between June 27 and July 4, 2022, and released on July 20 shows a civilian building destroyed after being landmined and burned down by the Myanmar military, according to the rights group, in Daw Ngay Ku village in Hparuso township, in eastern Myanmar's Kayah state. Myanmar junta troops continue to attack villages in the predominantly Christian area. (Photo: Amnesty International / AFP)
Three civilians were killed and six others wounded after Myanmar’s military stepped up attacks on several villages in the predominantly Christian Kayah state.
The army’s jet fighters bombed Wan Pala village in Bawlake township on March 23, according to the Karenni Human Rights Group, which tracks violence in the civil war-stricken southeast Asian nation.
“There was no fighting taking place in the area when the deadly aerial bombing happened,” the group tweeted on March 24.
But the predominantly Christian Kayah State has seen the deployment of more troops after fighting between the military and rebel groups intensified in recent days.
The fresh round of human causalities and the attacks have prompted thousands of people, mostly Christians, to flee their homes and take shelter in churches, convents and jungles.
A Church source from Loikaw, the capital of Kayah State, said, “Hundreds of people have taken refuge in churches in recent days and the Church is arranging food and shelter for them.”
Nearly 700 people have taken refuge in two churches, according to the source, who did not wish to be named.
At least 150,000 civilians, including Catholics, have been displaced since fighting erupted in Kayah State in May 2021.
Since late February this year, fighting has intensified on the border between Kayah State and southern Shan State, bordering China.
At least nine churches have been hit and 16 parishes have been severely affected in Loikaw Diocese, while the cathedral was targeted three times.
At least five parishes have been severely affected in Pekhon Diocese in southern Shan State.
The total population of Myanmar is estimated at 53.5 million and 87.9 percent of them are Buddhists. Of the 6.2 percent Christians, Catholics are 1.24 percent, organized into 16 dioceses, including three archdioceses. Four dioceses -- Loikaw, Pekhon, Hakha, and Kalay -- and Mandalay Archdiocese in central Myanmar have been affected by the ongoing conflict.
Noeleen Heyzer, special envoy of the UN Secretary-General on Myanmar, said violence continues “at an alarming scale” after the military, which toppled the civilian government in February 2021, extended the state of emergency on Feb.1 and beefed up its aerial bombings, burning of civilian structures and other grave human rights violations to maintain its grip on power.
“Heavy fighting has spread to areas previously unaffected by the conflict, putting more civilian lives at risk and further complicating humanitarian operations,” Heyzer told the UN General Assembly on March 16.
More than 3,000 civilians have been killed, more than 1.3 million displaced, more than 16,000 jailed and 17.6 million in dire need of humanitarian assistance in Myanmar, according to a report by Thomas Andrews, special rapporteur on Myanmar, who submitted the report to the Human Rights Council, an inter-governmental body within the United Nations, on March 20.