More die in Shan State after military raid a village

On the very day Pope Francis issued a new appeal, Myanmar’s air force carried out retaliatory strikes in reaction to Operation 1027. Almost 30,000 internally displaced people are now crammed under tents on the border with China. Lashio Cathedral has also opened its doors to welcome refugees fleeing fighting areas.

Milan (AsiaNews/Agencies) – On the very day that Pope Francis issued a new appeal in St Peter's Square to pray for the "dear people of Myanmar, who unfortunately continue to suffer due to violence and abuse", air strikes reportedly hit a village in Shan State in the north-east of the country, killing two people, including a child.

Meanwhile, the humanitarian crisis is worsening, with almost 30,000 internally displaced people taking refuge in makeshift tents near the border between China and Myanmar, Laukkaing Township.

Local sources told Radio Free Asia that around 10 pm on Sunday, fresh airstrikes hit the village of Myo Thit, Namhsan Township, while residents were sleeping.

The attack was unexpected since no fighting had been reported in the area. As many as 23 houses were damaged, leaving behind two deads and a dozen wounded.

The conflict in Shan State has intensified in recent weeks when an alliance of three ethnic militias opposed to the junta launched Operation 1027 in late October. The military lost important positions in the offensive, and is responding with indiscriminate reprisals.

In addition, heavy in the past few days rains have made life more difficult for those who have been forced to leave their homes. The local Christian community has mobilised amid the humanitarian emergency.

UCANews reports that at least 600 people have taken refuge in the cathedral and an educational establishment in Lashio, after fleeing regions where fighting between the military and rebel groups is raging.

Hundreds more have taken refuge in Baptist churches and Buddhist monasteries in the city of Lashio. Diocesan teams have been mobilised to provide aid also through local parish priests in areas impossible to reach due to the ongoing violence.

“Priests are close to their parishioners and people cook and pray together," a Burmese priest told the Églises  d'Asie on condition of anonymity.

“Here we welcome refugees, we help everyone. We can't express ourselves openly, but we can help them. Catholics are strong in their faith. They are very religious. They are fervent, praying together, and helping each other," he explains. "We all want freedom."

"The world does not understand the suffering of our people. In their propaganda, the military claim to protect the unity of the country, but they plundered resources in the name of unity and today people are poor," the clergyman told Missions Etrangères de Paris.

“The only way out is a federal system. People are starting to prepare. Seventy years of war have impoverished the country. Can you imagine what it would be like today without the war?"