| 23 April 2024, Tuesday |

Myanmar town near India border sees exodus as thousands flee fighting

According to residents and media reports, the majority of the population of a Myanmar town near the Indian border has fled after buildings were set ablaze by artillery during combat between paramilitary forces opposed to military rule and the army.

According to a community leader, some 10,000 people live in Thantlang, Chin State, but the majority have fled to adjacent areas, including some in India.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a government led by pro-democracy veteran Aung San Suu Kyi was ousted on Feb. 1, triggering countrywide fury, strikes, rallies, and the formation of anti-junta militia.

Approximately 20 homes were set burned during combat between militia troops and the army last weekend, with photos on social media showing buildings engulfed in flames.

Soldiers shot and killed a Christian preacher who attempted to put out a fire, according to the Myanmar Now news portal, while official media refuted the claim.

According to Myanmar’s Global New Light, the pastor’s killing is being probed, and soldiers were ambushed by roughly 100 “terrorists,” with both sides exchanging fire.

Militia fighters had overrun an army base earlier in September and the military responded with air strikes, said Salai Thang, a community leader, who said four civilians had been killed and 15 wounded in recent weeks.

The Chin Defense Force, a militia opposed to the military, said in a statement 30 soldiers had been killed.

Reuters could not independently confirm any of the claims and a military spokesman did not answer calls seeking comment.

A relative of the dead pastor told Reuters that most people had fled the town, although a handful of households remained including about 20 children in an orphanage run by the pastor.

“The murder of a Baptist minister and bombing of homes in Thantlang, Chin State are the latest examples of the living hell being delivered daily by junta forces against the people of Myanmar,” Thomas Andrews, U.N. special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar, said in a message on Twitter this week.

There has been an upsurge in bloodshed in areas like Chin State after the National Unity Government, a shadow underground administration set up by opponents of the military, declared an uprising on Sept. 7 and called on the new militia, known as People’s Defense Forces (PDF), to target the junta and its assets.

The attempts by the PDFs to take on the well-equipped army have often resulted in civilians being caught in cross fire and forced to flee.

Community leader Salai Thang said he was deeply concerned about the displaced people who were sheltering in nearby villages and some in India’s Mizoram state.

“Those refugees are now badly struggling for food and shelter,” he said by telephone.

  • Reuters