01/03/2017, 14.13
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Two Catholics missing after speaking to press about raid on Saint Francis Xavier Church

No news of Gam Seng and Dumdaw Nawng Lat since Christmas Eve. Lay people active in the parish, the two had reported to press about a Burmese army attack early December. Sources tell AsiaNews: "Family and friends concerned about their fate."

Yangon (AsiaNews) – There has been no news of Gam Seng and Dumdaw Nawng Lat for days now, the two Catholic who disappeared on Christmas Eve after helping some journalists to investigate the bombing of a Catholic church in Shan State, in early December . These are two faithful of the community of Saint Francis Xavier - hit during a Burmese army raid - in Mongkoe town, not far from the border between Myanmar and China.

Local sources contacted by AsiaNews confirm the disappearance, explaining that these are two "lay figures" related to the local Church and active for some time "in the life of the community", and not two "priests" as at first reported by some International media. "Family and friends - says the source - are concerned and are doing everything they can to track them down.

However, there is no reliable information about their fate.

On December 3 last year a government army attack destroyed the St. Francis Xavier church in Mung Koe, Shan State (northeastern Myanmar). In the days following the attack Msgr. Philip Za Hawng, bishop of the Diocese of Lashio, where the parish is located, confirmed the destruction of the place of worship "with the exception of the bell tower."

The parish priest, the nuns and the approximately one thousand Catholics who formed the community had abandoned the area earlier, finding refuge across the border in China. The escalation of tension between Burmese military and ethnic militias Shan had foreshadowed a possible attack, and this is why Catholics had fled and no one was injured in the bombing.

The two men were last seen on December 24, near an army base called Byuha Gon [the strategic hill, ed] in Mongkoe. Previously the two Catholics had met with three journalists for the Democratic Voice of Burma (DVB), The Irrawaddy and Kumudra Journal, who were following an investigation into the demolition of the church.

Questioned on the matter, one of the reporters said that "Gam Sen helped us with everything," regarding “the situation with the fighting" and how the Burmese fighter jets "bombed the church and the city." He confirmed that it was "rockets and projectiles launched by the army". The two disappeared "after the publication of the photos" [of damaged churches and schools] concludes the chronicler, and  "I think this is because they helped us and talked with us."

For several weeks the advance of the Tatmadaw in the north-eastern territories has intensified. The Naypyidaw troops are using air and land attacks to target positions of ethnic militias, causing an unknown number of dead and arresting civilians indiscriminately. The Archbishop of Yangon, Card. Charles Bo, has repeatedly appealed to the whole country for peace.

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