Pastor Reported Killed, Town Abandoned in Myanmar Fighting
A Baptist pastor and three other men were killed and a town of 2,000 homes all but abandoned this past weekend in fighting in Myanmar’s western Chin State that escalated after a call for a nationwide uprising against the country’s military government, a resident said Thursday.
Major fighting broke out on Sept. 18, according to both the resistance and the government, but the details emerged only on Monday.
An artillery shell started a fire that destroyed 19 buildings including a newly built hotel, said a resident who insisted on not being identified because he feared punishment from the government.
He said fellow residents told him that Pastor Cung Biak Hum was shot to death by government troops as he tried to help put out the fire, and three other men were also said to have been fatally shot.
The witness informed only about 30 people — 20 boys and several adults — remained at an orphanage at the edge of town after most residents fled to nearby villages for safety.
Government spokesman Maj.-Gen. Zaw Min Tun blamed the fighting on Chin resistance forces and said the pastor’s death was under investigation.
Chin State has had some of the strongest insurgent activity against the military-installed government that seized power in February from the elected administration of Aung San Suu Kyi. Residents of the remote region have a long-standing reputation for their fierce fighting spirit.
Many religious leaders decided to serve as medical support staff and firefighters. Some are helping with logistics and searching for the victims of the war.
The Chinland Defense Force said it killed two army soldiers in a Sept. 9 ambush, according to independent Myanmar media. Sporadic fighting was also reported in the area over the following days.
The Chin Baptist Association released a statement on September 19 condemning the junta’s desecration of ethnic Chin Christian churches, where Myanmar army troops have opened fire, destroyed property and Bibles, and drank alcohol—acts which the association said could exacerbate the current conflict.
On September 24, the Myanmar junta's army with the artillery shells also destroyed at least three homes and some buildings within the compound of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Catholic Church in Mindat.
The glass above the church was hit by some bullets, and an artillery shell fell beside the church and exploded. The shrapnel hit the windows, Father Shal Thang, the church’s priest, said. told local Myanmar media.
The fighting on Monday in Thantlang between government troops and the Chinland Defense Force, a local resistance group, followed more than a week of smaller skirmishes in which at least two government troops were reported killed.