Soldiers of Myanmar’s military junta burned to the ground a 129-year-old Catholic church in the country’s Sagaing region on Sunday, January 15.
More than 150 soldiers entered Chan Thar village in Ye-U township and set up camp inside the Assumption church compound the day before, according to a report on Radio Free Asia.
On Sunday, the soldiers burned down the church and adjacent buildings, which served as convents of priests and nuns, the report added.
It was the fourth time since May last year that junta soldiers entered and burned the village.
“They started to torch the furniture and pillars inside the building first. Only the outside brick structure remains. The roof and bells were destroyed,” the RFA report quoted a resident who asked not to be named.
“There was a building for the sisters as it was a Christian church. That building was also completely destroyed,” added the source.
Another resident said the junta should not allow its troops to camp in religious buildings.
“These are places where religion is supreme. It is only one year before the church turns 130 years old,” said the resident. “This should not happen to the buildings of priests and nuns. They should always live in these buildings.”
Residents said a battalion from Sagaing region’s Mawlaik township and one from Yangon region’s Hmawbi township carried out the latest attack.
RFA calls to Sagaing region’s junta spokesman and social affairs minister Aye Hlaing went unanswered.
Junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun previously claimed the military does not burn down civilian buildings, blaming anti-junta People’s Defense Forces.
Myint Htwe, former regional lawmaker for the National League for Democracy, which led the government ousted in the February 2021 coup, told RFA destroying religious buildings is a war crime.
“I accept fighting to the death in battle as it is war. We also understand it is the nature of the military to cut off main supply routes. But destroying religious buildings has no place in the civilized and humane armies of various countries around the world,” he said.
Last November three locals were killed when troops attacked Khin-U township’s Mon Hla village and set fire to the houses.
After the attack Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, archbishop of Yangon, told RFA Burmese he was deeply saddened by the raid on his home village.