Thantlang, a mountain-top town in Chin State, has suffered from eight fires and lost around 254 houses in two months, according to residents, who blame Myanmar’s military.
The latest fire broke out on Wednesday after junta troops shelled the town following clashes with the Chinland Defense Force (CDF) resistance group.
The regime claimed that 30 houses, a shop and church were destroyed by resistance attacks on Wednesday.
Around 36 houses in a ward burned down and then 10 more houses caught fire when another fire broke out in the same ward hours later after fighting had ceased. Three houses burned down in another ward.
A civilian resistance fighter from the CDF in Thantlang said junta soldiers were responsible for the fire that broke out after shooting ceased in the evening.
“The sounds of gunshots and shelling had stopped. I am sure it was arson. They have committed arson several times. It seems that they torch anywhere they think we have been firing from. They want to make their targets clear. They want to blame us for the fires,” said a CDF member.
Since Sept. 9, Thantlang has lost around 254 houses in eight fires, which have been blamed on junta shelling.
More than 160 houses out of around 2,000 homes in Thantlang burned down after junta artillery strikes on Oct. 29. The fires raged until the following day morning.
Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun disputed the allegations as “groundless” and accused resistance groups of setting fire to the houses.
The majority of Thantlang’s population have left the town due to earlier artillery strikes. At least 70 junta troops are deployed in the town.
A house burned down during a junta artillery strike on Sept. 9 following fighting with resistance groups. Nineteen more houses burned down during shelling on Sept. 18, 164 on Oct. 29, 9 on Nov. 6, two on Nov. 9, seven on Nov. 10 and three on Nov. 11.
“The military is supposed to protect the lives and property of the people. But it is doing the opposite. It is a terrorist army being exploited by a small group,” said a Thantlang resident whose house burned down.
“The resistance fighters consider everything and try to minimize the impact on people and their property if they fight. But Min Aung Hlaing’s troops are different. When they suffer heavy casualties, they steal and destroy houses. They open fire at random without mercy. They have no regard for civilians,” added the resident.
A Chin pastor was shot dead and troops cut off his finger for his wedding ring during fighting with resistance forces in Thantlang on Sept. 18.
Chin State has been seen some of the heaviest resistance to the regime since the Feb. 1 coup. Clashes broke out between junta troops and the CDF in Thantlang on August 20.
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