Military destroys historic church, more than 100 houses in Catholic village

Junta forces have razed most of the village, including a century-old place of worship, in a series of raids and arson attacks carried out over the past year

Regime troops torched a 129-year-old Catholic church and most remaining houses in the predominantly Catholic village of Chan Thar in Sagaing Region last week—their fourth arson attack on the village since last year.

A column of some 80 soldiers moved north from Depayin Township into Ye-U Township in two separate detachments on January 13 and 14, according to local defence teams. 

The soldiers raided and torched several villages in Ye-U Township, including Chan Thar, before advancing across the Muu River into Khin-U Township on January 15, the teams said. 

In a January 14 raid, one of the junta detachments destroyed Chan Thar’s Assumption Church, built in 1894, and at least 120 of the village’s houses.

“Nothing much is left of the church as they torched every major building. They even destroyed the prayer hall and the buildings for the nuns and the priest,” said James, a member of a local resistance force.

Before it became a target of junta attacks, Chan Thar had more than 500 houses. The village, which is located about 10km west of the town of Ye-U, is predominantly Catholic, with a Buddhist minority.

The village is one of several in Sagaing Region settled by Portuguese traders and adventurers in the 17th century. The settlers married into the local population, founded families, and passed down their religious heritage to their descendants, who still inhabit the area.

Another Catholic church, in the village of Chaung Yoe in Sagaing Region’s Taze Township, was torched by junta forces in March of 2022. 

The church seen after the fire (Supplied)

The church seen after the fire (Supplied)

Junta forces had targeted Chan Thar before last week. Between May and December 2022, soldiers set fire to at least 250 houses in a series of increasingly destructive arson attackson the village.

“They have raided over 30 times now and this is the fourth time our village has been torched,” said a villager in Chan Thar who asked to remain anonymous. “Hundreds of houses have already been destroyed and essentially nothing is left of the village.”

Chan Thar residents had not expected the military to carry out another arson attack so soon, the villager said.

“It hadn’t been long since they left the village, so we didn’t think they’d come back this soon. They are deliberately conducting these attacks in order to oppress and kill civilians,” he added.

Chan Thar residents, who fled during the attack, reportedly attempted to resettle in the village after the junta column left. Locals from other villages raided by the junta columns in Ye-U Township have been displaced indefinitely, according to local defence teams. 

Regime forces have ruthlessly targeted villages in Ye-U Township in recent months in attempts to subdue armed resistance forces. Twenty-eight civilians were massacred in Mone Taing Pin, another village in Ye-U Township, in May of last year.

Myanmar Now News