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Historic Catholic village under fire again in Myanmar

At least 320 houses are burned down during a military assault on Chaung Yoe village

Historic Catholic village under fire again in Myanmar

The burned remains of buildings after air strikes and mortar attacks by the Myanmar military on a village in Doo Tha Htoo district in eastern Myanmar's Kayin state on May 3. (Photo: Free Burma Rangers/AFP)

Published: May 23, 2022 05:45 AM GMT

Updated: May 23, 2022 04:44 PM GMT

The Myanmar military has continued to target a historic Catholic village in the country’s Bamar heartland while pressing ahead with attacks on religious buildings in predominantly Christian regions.

At least 320 out of the estimated 350 households were burned down during a military raid on Chaung Yoe village in the Sagaing region on May 20, according to local sources.

Thousands of Catholic villagers were forced to flee their homes to nearby safe areas as junta troops set fire to one house after another.

Houses in three nearby Buddhist villages were also set ablaze during the military raid on the same day.

Sources said Mary Help of Christians Church, convent and the priest’s house were not damaged.

The latest attack came just four days before the annual celebration of Mary Help of Christians on May 24.

“We have no homes and no property. Where will we stay in the village when we return if the situation is deemed safe?”

“It’s so sad. I was in tears when I saw smoke coming out from my village as my house was also burned down,” said a Catholic woman who sought safety among her relatives in a nearby town.

“We have no homes and no property. Where will we stay in the village when we return if the situation is deemed safe?” 

Two Catholics in Chaung Yoe village were shot dead by soldiers and at least 10 homes and chicken farms were set ablaze on March 12.

Thousands of Catholics from the village have fled to nearby villages and other safe areas including Mandalay since late February following shelling of the village and raids by the junta.

On May 7, at least 20 houses were burned during a junta raid on Chan Thar, another Catholic village in the Sagaing region.

Two people were shot dead and three others severely beaten in a Jan. 10 raid while troops destroyed statues and looted property.

The ongoing conflict, particularly in Christian strongholds in areas inhabited by the Kayah, Chin, Karen and Kachin minorities, has resulted in churches and convents being attacked and raided

Three historic Catholic villages in Sagaing region, the Bamar heartland where resistance has been growing to the military among people’s defense forces, have been targeted, while the military has continued attacking civilians’ homes and churches in predominantly Christian regions including Kayah state in eastern Myanmar.

Three villages in Mandalay Archdiocese — Chaung Yoe, Monhla and Chan Thar — are known as Bayingyi villages where people claim descent from Portuguese adventurers who arrived in the 16th and 17th centuries. The villages have produced many bishops, priests and religious nuns and brothers.

The ongoing conflict, particularly in Christian strongholds in areas inhabited by the Kayah, Chin, Karen and Kachin minorities, has resulted in churches and convents being attacked and raided. Priests and pastors have been arrested while many unarmed civilians have been killed.

Four dioceses — Hakha, Kalay, Loikaw and Pekhon — out of the 16 dioceses in the conflict-torn nation have been badly hit following the February 2021 military coup that triggered peaceful demonstrations and growing resistance by newly emerged militias.

At least 1,800 people including more than 100 children have been killed and more than 13,000 have been detained since last February.

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