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More Catholic villagers flee as fighting escalates in Myanmar

Priests and nuns from at least seven parishes have fled along with parishioners due to conflict in Kayah state

UCA News reporter

UCA News reporter

Published: June 02, 2021 07:09 AM GMT

Updated: June 02, 2021 07:28 AM GMT

More Catholic villagers flee as fighting escalates in Myanmar

People shelter in the jungle near Demoso, Kayah state, after they fled fighting between the Myanmar military and the Karenni People’s Defense Forces on June 1. (Photo: AFP)

Thousands more Catholic villagers have been forced to flee their homes as Myanmar’s military escalates airstrikes, helicopter attacks and artillery shelling in violence-hit Kayah state.

The military stepped up its offensive against the Karenni People’s Defense Forces in Demoso and nearby villages on May 31.

The hostilities prompted thousands of people, including Catholic villagers, to flee into the jungle and relatives’ homes, according to church officials.

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Priests and nuns from at least seven parishes including Demoso have already fled along with parishioners due to increased fighting in the region.

Loikaw Diocese has established a response committee to help provide humanitarian assistance to internally displaced persons (IDPs).

Over 600 people — including the elderly, pregnant women, children and women who recently give birth — have taken refuge in the compound of Christ the King Cathedral in Loikaw, capital of Kayah state.

The humanitarian impact of hostilities in the region remains severe

Father Aloysius Thet Htwe Aung, director of Karuna (Caritas) Loikaw, said the number of IDPs has increased due to the recent hostilities and the Church is trying hard to dispense humanitarian aid to most of the displaced people.

“There is an urgent need for proper shelter, medicines and drinking water as the rainy season has started and some people including children have become ill,” Father Aung told UCA News.

The priest said several areas where IDPs have taken refuge cannot be reached by humanitarian groups due to the hostilities.

He said the situation remains volatile and at least three artillery attacks by the military were heard from the Church’s center in Loikaw on June 2 morning.

Between 85,000 and 100,000 people are estimated to have been displaced by fighting between the military and the Karenni Army as well as the Karenni People’s Defense Forces in Kayah state, according to a UN report on June 1.

The report said fighting in the area continues to escalate with airstrikes and indiscriminate shelling reported. The majority of the displaced people are concentrated in Demoso, Hpruso and Loikaw townships in Kayah state and Hsiseng and Pekhon townships in southern Shan state.

“The humanitarian impact of hostilities in the region remains severe, with people displaced and those who remain in areas affected across the southeastern parts of the country in urgent need of food, shelter, medicine, water and sanitation services,” the UN said.

Over 50,000 people have been displaced in Kayin and Bago regions, more than 10,000 in Chin state and at least 10,000 in Kachin state, it added.

Fighting between the military and ethnic armed groups and local resistance groups has been escalating in Karen, Kachin, Chin and Kayah states — largely Christian regions — following the brutal crackdown against anti-coup protesters by the military that has led to more than 840 deaths.

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