BURMA – Civilian Christians Killed amid Military Fighting in Western Burma

Morning Star News | March 25, 2020

Burmese army jet fighters killed 21 civilians from the predominantly Christian, ethnic Chin group in airstrikes this month in western Burma (Myanmar), sources said.

In Paletwa Township, Chin state, the army on March 14 struck Meiksa Wa villages 2 and 3, killing 12 civilians, area residents reportedly said. Eight more died in attacks the next day on Wetma village, and one was killed in Pyaing Tain village, they said.

The Burmese military’s Members of Parliament said the predominantly Christian villages were targeted because army personnel believed Arakan Army (AA) rebels from Rakhine state, on Chin state’s southern border, had taken cover in them, according to Mai Thin Yu Mon, program director of Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO).

Another 28 civilians were wounded in the attacks, he said, adding that more than 1,500 villagers fled the areas as some of their houses were burned down.

Chin Christian leaders and local residents said that, based on past persecution they have endured at the hands of the military, they suspect army personnel fired indiscriminately at the villages in part because the inhabitants were Christian. Under the previous military regime, troops came to their villages and systematically persecuted the Christians in order to impose Buddhism. Prior CHRO reports have outlined how Burmese troops destroyed church buildings and persecuted Christians.

Brig. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, a military spokesman, reportedly said that government troops were returning fire at AA rebels, and that it was unclear which side caused the civilian casualties.

“We used fighter jets and helicopters in military operations, but it is difficult to tell [if the fatalities] were caused by the jets,” he told The Irawaddy. “When we use the jets, we take more care and aim only at the enemy’s location.”

Encouraging Buddhism to try to unite Burma’s disparate peoples, the Burmese government has long persecuted Chin Christians for their faith. Many ethnic Chin retain their ancestral animist beliefs and practices, though today most are Christians, according to the Joshua Project and other sources.