Myanmar junta troops have laid waste to more than 60 civilian homes and a church in months of scorched-earth operations in Chin state, a western region where fighting between the junta and ethnic armed organizations has raged on since the Feb. 1 coup, RFA statistics showed.
The military rampaged through Chin’s Thantlang township, on Sept. 18, destroying 19 houses. Between Oct. 13 and Oct. 25, junta soldiers torched 42 houses and one church in nearby Falam township, in parts of Talang Ron and Tal villages, and the entire village of Rialti.
Witnesses said they saw the military not only burning homes, but also looting them and killing farm animals. About 900 residents from seven villages fled to the deep forest to escape the onslaught.
“It costs more than 10 million kyat (U.S. $5,572) to build a house. We put everything, all our savings, in building a house according to our Chin traditions, so it will be very difficult to rebuild when we are fleeing war, have no money, and not enough food to eat,” a resident who fled Tal village told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“Now we have no house in the village because of the fire. Do we have to just live in our forest hut? I don’t know what to do anymore. Everyone is in tears,” the Tal villager said.
Though the military has denied carrying out the arson attacks, sources told RFA that the junta soldiers were the only possible culprit.
“They were the only ones in our village as everyone had already fled. If they didn’t burn the houses, who did?” a resident of Talang Rong village, who declined to be named for security reasons, told RFA’s Myanmar Service.
“It is unforgivable that they set fire to the village and stayed in our houses and ate our food… They did whatever they wanted. They killed our animals for the sake of killing them. There are so many cases like that,” the Talang Rong resident said.
The October arson attacks happened just after major military reinforcements to the region on Oct. 9, as soldiers opened fire on every village along the Kalemyo-Falam-Hakha road, a highway that connects that part of Chin state with the southern part of the Sagaing region.
Both Chin and Sagaing have been hotbeds of armed resistance by local militias against the troops that overthrew Myanmar’s elected government nine months ago.
RFA attempted to contact military spokesperson Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun for commen,t but calls went unanswered. On Oct. 14 he denied to RFA that the military burnt the 12 houses and church in Rialti village.
The military in Chin state has violated international law, Salai Za Op Lin, executive director the India-based Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO), told RFA.
“Almost the entire town of Thantlang was burned to the ground,” said Salai Za Op Lin.
“We are carefully recording and documenting what is going on. We will keep this information and will one day publish it,” he said.
According to CHRO statistics, about 30,000 people have fled across the Myanmar-India border to India’s Mizoram state. Another 30,000 people are displaced within Chin state.
CHRO said about 30,000 people have fled to Mizoram, India, due to the ongoing fighting in Chin State, and another 30,000 people have been displaced in Chin State.
Since August, military troops set fire to 300 homes in the state, the CHRO said.
Myanmar’s military has been conducting combat operations against armed ethnic groups in areas close to its border for decades. Many of the groups who signed cease-fire agreements with the democratically elected government declared those agreements invalid after the coup.
As of Thursday, the junta has killed 1219 people since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Reported by Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Eugene Whong.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.