UCA News
Contribute

Child killed, villagers flee Myanmar junta attack

Thousands of Catholics, Buddhists displaced as military again targets villages in Sagaing region
This photo taken on Aug. 10, 2022, shows anti-coup fighters with their weapons sitting in a field in Myanmar's northwestern Sagaing region

This photo taken on Aug. 10, 2022, shows anti-coup fighters with their weapons sitting in a field in Myanmar's northwestern Sagaing region. (Photo: AFP)

Published: March 07, 2023 06:28 AM GMT
Updated: March 07, 2023 07:15 AM GMT

A child was killed and thousands of villagers, including Catholics, were forced to flee their homes when Myanmar’s junta stepped up attacks on several villages in the civil war-stricken Southeast Asian nation.

Catholics and Buddhists in the historic village of Mon Hla in the Sagaing region took shelter in forests when the military raided their villages on March 6. At least 8,000 villagers fled their homes, according to local residents. 

An eight-year-old child, a Catholic from Mon Hla, was killed as a result of shelling by the military, according to the residents.

“The child was taking refuge under a tree in the forest and was killed by a shell,” a resident, who did not wish to be named, told UCA News.

The junta, which seized power after toppling the civilian government in February 2021, has repeatedly targeted Mon Hla village since March 2022. Armed rebel groups, also comprising Christians, are fighting against the army’s rule, which has triggered renewed civil war in the country. 

 The military is specifically targeting three historic Catholic villages — Chan Thar, Chaung Yoe and Mon Hla  — in Sagaing to stamp out growing resistance by people’s defense forces.

Catholics in Mon Hla, Chaung Yoe and Chan Thar, part of Mandalay archdiocese, claim to be descendants of Portuguese adventurers who arrived there in the 16th and 17th centuries. 

In an attack on Jan. 15, the army set ablaze the 129-year-old Assumption Church in Chan Thar, along with hundreds of homes.

At least 10 out of 38 parishes in the archdiocese have been severely affected due to the ongoing conflict, according to Church sources.

“Priests and nuns along with the villagers from those parishes have repeatedly fled from their homes due to the raids,” one of them, who did not wish to be named, told UCA News.

Catholic bishops have repeatedly called for respect for human life and the sanctity of places of worship, hospitals and schools.

The UN rights chief has decried the violence which has brought the country into “a perpetual human rights crisis”.

“The disregard and contempt for human life and human rights that are continuously demonstrated by the military, constitute an outrage to the conscience of humanity,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) Volker Turk told the Human Rights Council on March.6.

He said credible sources have verified that at least 2,947 civilians, including 244 children, have been killed by the military and its affiliates since 2021.

In the first two months of 2023, more than 1,54,000 people have been internally displaced, bringing the total number of displaced persons since the military coup to 1.3 million, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said in a report on March.4.

Help UCA News to be independent
Dear reader,
Trafficking is one of the largest criminal industries in the world, only outdone by drugs and arms trafficking, and is the fastest-growing crime today.
Victims come from every continent and are trafficked within and to every continent. Asia is notorious as a hotbed of trafficking.
In this series, UCA News introduces our readers to this problem, its victims, and the efforts of those who shine the light of the Gospel on what the Vatican calls “these varied and brutal denials of human dignity.”
Help us with your donations to bring such stories of faith that make a difference in the Church and society.
A small contribution of US$5 will support us continue our mission…
William J. Grimm
Publisher
UCA News
Asian Bishops
Latest News
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia
UCA News Catholic Dioceses in Asia