Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Burmese Army Accused of Planting Landmines Around Indigenous Church

9/5/11 Burma (Irrawaddy) - Kachin Christians have accused Burma's armed forces of abusing their religious rights after government troops seized control of a church in Kachin State and turned it into a military outpost, complete with fortifications, trenches and landmines, according to local sources.

The church, in the village of Katsu in Waimaw Township, was commandeered by the Burmese army last month amid an ongoing armed conflict with the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), a former ceasefire group that resumed hostilities with government troops on June 9.

On Aug 26, members of the Katsu Kachin Baptist Church sent a letter of complaint to the chief minister of Kachin State saying that government troops from Infantry Battalion (IB) 58 and IB 318 had banned them from entering the church since Aug 13.

“They [the government army] took over the church in Katsu village and started fortifying it. They have banned local villagers from going to the church or traveling around the area,” said Mai Li Awng, a spokesperson for a local Kachin relief group called Wun Tawng Ningtwey (“Light for Kachin People”).

“I don't think they should be allowed to do this because the church is a religious site, and has nothing to do with politics. It's not appropriate to take over a church and turn it into a military base. It's a human rights abuse,” she added.
An estimated 20,000 Kachin civilians have so far been displaced by the conflict, many of them seeking refuge on the Sino-Burmese border and in the city of Laiza, where the KIA is based, according to Kachin relief groups(Source)

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