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Residents say Christian churches attacked by junta in Myanmar’s Chin state

Another Wave of Atrocity Crimes in Chin State (Human Rights Watch/Released)
August 20, 2023

This article was originally published by Radio Free Asia and is reprinted with permission.

Residents in Chin state said that the bombing of two Christian churches in recent days were deliberate attacks by the military junta. 

On Saturday, a Baptist church and a residential home were destroyed and seven people were injured after junta troops bombarded Ramthlo village in Falam township, a local resident and several pastors said. 

And on Monday, four civilian homes – including one used as a Baptist church – were destroyed by the junta’s aerial bombardment of Khuafo village in Thantlang township. A pastor’s home was also destroyed when two artillery shells were fired into the courtyard of the Baptist church in Hakha city Monday evening, they said.

Salai Dokhar, an observer of Chin issues, told Radio Free Asia that the junta is trying to cause mental anguish with the deliberate attacks on holy places valued by Chin people. 

“Churches are some of the things that these people revere most,” said Dokhar, who is also the founder of India for Myanmar, an India-based pro-democracy group. 

“We assume that the junta choosing to attack such holy churches indicates that they are trying to use their last strategy of causing people direct mental pain in this situation of crisis when they are losing.”

‘A flagrant war crime’

The churches were targeted without any provocation, according to a Hakha resident, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity for security reasons. No one was harmed in the attacks.

“Targeting religious compounds and buildings is definitely against the will of God. It would be a different story if some armed groups were present but this is just an innocent church,” said a Hakha Baptist Church bishop, who also refused to be named for security reasons.

“It is purely a religious compound. They should have never done damage to such holy places. This should never happen in the future either,” the bishop said.

The military junta hasn’t released any news about the damage to the Christian churches. Junta spokesman and Chin state social minister Thant Zin didn’t respond to RFA’s attempt to reach him for comment. 

Separately, a Christian temple in Set Kant village, south of Kale township in Sagaing region, was damaged by junta artillery on Friday, residents said.

A total of 85 religious buildings, including eight Christian churches, have been destroyed by junta airstrikes and arson in Chin state since the February 2021 military coup, according to the Chin Human Rights Organization.

“Deliberately attacking religious buildings, churches, and hospitals is not only a clear neglect but also a flagrant war crime,” the organization’s executive officer, Salai Mang Hre Lian, told RFA.