Catholic church in Myanmar hit by artillery shells on Corpus Christi Sunday

Artillery shells hit the Mary Queen of Peace church in Daw Ngan Kha, Demoso town, in Kayah State, on June 6, 2021. (Photo supplied)

A Catholic Church has been repeatedly hit by artillery shells on June 6, Corpus Christi Sunday, as Myanmar’s military continued its offensive in the eastern part of the country’s Kayah State.

Witnesses said the military targeted the Mary Queen of Peace church in Daw Ngan Kha, Demoso town, in Kayah State.

There were no casualties or injuries reported but the church suffered serious damage and several houses in the vicinity were also hit.

It was the sixth time in two weeks that Catholic churches in the region came under military attack, a local priest who asked not to be named for security reasons told LiCAS.news.

On Saturday, Myanmar’s security forces clashed with villagers armed with catapults and crossbows during a search for weapons in the Ayeyarwady river delta region. At least 20 people were reported killed.

The army has struggled to impose control since it overthrew elected leader Aug San Suu Kyi after a decade of democratic reforms had opened up the once isolated state.

Clashes broke out before dawn on Saturday at Hlayswe, some 150 km northwest of the main city of Yangon, when soldiers said they had come to search for weapons, at least four local media outlets and a resident said.

“The people in the village only have crossbows and there are a lot of casualties on the people’s side,” said the resident, who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Khit Thit Media and the Delta News Agency said 20 civilians had been killed and more wounded. They said villagers had tried to fight back with catapults after soldiers assaulted residents in what they said was a search for arms.

MRTV state television said security forces had come under attack with compressed air guns and darts. After the shootout, the bodies of three attackers had been found, it said.

If confirmed, the toll given by the local media would be the highest in one day in nearly two months. Some 845 people had previously been killed by the army and police since the Feb. 1 coup, according to an activist group. The junta disputes that figure.

It was some of the worst violence since the coup in the Ayeyarwady region, an important rice growing area that has large populations of both the Bamar majority ethnic group, from which much of the army is drawn, and the Karen minority.

Since the coup, conflicts have flared in the borderlands where some two dozen ethnic armies have been waging insurgencies for decades. The junta has also been faced by daily protests and paralysing strikes.

In eastern Myanmar, the MBPDF (Mobye People’s Defence Force) said it had clashed with the army on Friday and four “terrorist soldiers” had been killed.

Despite the turmoil, Myanmar’s army has shown little sign of heeding calls from its opponents to relinquish its hold. This week, the junta received its first high-profile foreign visitors – the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross and the two ASEAN envoys.

An underground opposition government set up by opponents of the junta said after the envoys’ visit on Friday it had lost faith in ASEAN’s attempts to end the crisis – the main international effort to resolve it. - RVA News with reports from LiCAS.news