Thousands are in flight across Myanmar because of armed strikes and indiscriminate attacks and arrests conducted by the Tatmadaw, the armed forces of Myanmar, deepening a humanitarian crisis emerging in Kayah and Chin states. According to a community leader from Loikaw, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals from the Myanmar military, the Tatmadaw “see the civilians as their enemies.”
“No one is safe from their attacks. Anyone they are suspicious of, anyone they think are against them, they will arrest, they will torture and some of them are even shot to death. It happens here every day, so people are hiding.” He said so far 50 have been killed in Kayah State, and many have been wounded. “Even peaceful protesters have been shot.”
The source in Loikaw said the Tatmadaw have attacked churches and homes with drone and air strikes, mortar and small arms fire, killing non-combatants and driving thousands into the nearby forests and mountains. “The church is under attack” in Kayah State, he said, both the “People of God” and church buildings.
Four churches of the Diocese of Loikaw have come under heavy weapons fire since mid-May. Now most church functions throughout the state have been shut down completely and many parishes are “totally abandoned.”
He accused the Tatmadaw of criminal acts and possible war crimes. He believes the attack on the Catholic community in Kayah represents an attempt at ethnic cleansing or even genocide. “Kayah State is predominantly a Christian state, and the military supports Buddhism as the only religion of the state,” he said, comparing the attacks on Catholic churches and villages to a similar campaign of terror in Rakhine State in August 2017. Those attacks in the end drove more than 723,000 Rohingya Muslims out of Myanmar into Bangladesh.
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Kevin Clarke is America’s chief correspondent and the author of Oscar Romero: Love Must Win Out (Liturgical Press).
With thanks to America Magazine and Kevin Clarke, where this article originally appeared.