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Myanmar Junta Torches Home Village of Catholic Cardinal

Mone Hla villagers shelter at a monastery on Friday. / Supplied

Military regime troops torched the home village of the head of the Roman Catholic Church in Myanmar on Thursday, killing two civilians including a male child.

Residents said that nearly 80 junta soldiers burned houses on Thursday afternoon in Mone Hla Village in Sagaing Region’s Khin-U Township, where Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the Archbishop of Yangon, was born.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo / The Irrawaddy.

During the raid, a 50-year-old woman, a seven-year old boy and a resistance fighter were killed.

“They started torching the section of the village where Christians live, including a building where refugees were sheltering. The building is provided by the Cardinal,” a villager said.

Mone Hla and other villages in Khin-U Township are where the Portuguese people who brought Catholicism to Myanmar settled over four centuries ago.

Cardinal Charles Maung Bo is a strong supporter of peace in Myanmar. However, he was seen celebrating Christmas with regime chief Min Aung Hlaing last year and was subsequently honoured by the junta boss with the Thiri Pyan Chi Title.

There are over 700 houses in Mone Hla. It is not known how many homes were burned down, as residents fled the raid and are unable to return with regime soldiers still occupying the village. In July, Mone Hla was also targeted by junta airstrikes, according to villagers.

The attack on the village came after a combined group of People’s Defense Forces (PDF) ambushed a regime column on Wednesday.

“We were waiting for them and attacked them with landmines first. Then we ambushed them,” said a member of Sanaychaung–Khin-U PDF.

After an hour of fighting, the junta forces retreated to Pin Sein Khin Village, where they targeted PDF fighters with artillery.

Armed Revolutionary Force (Khin-U), a local resistance group, said in a statement that clashes continued up to 2pm on Wednesday, before a junta Mi-35 helicopter gunship arrived to cover the regime troops as they escaped Pin Sein Khin Village.

Resistance fighters said that they killed at least 40 Myanmar military troops. The Irrawaddy was unable to verify the claim independently.

“When the Mi35 arrived and opened fire, we had to escape. Some of our fighters even left their guns behind. Everyone scattered and we lost communication with some fighters,” said a leader of the Hero Army Khin-U resistance group.

He added that six PDF fighters died in the battle, while four civilians, including a seven-year-old child, from Pin Sein Khin and Mone Hla villages were also killed.

The junta soldiers spent Wednesday night in Mone Hla, before starting to torch homes in the village at 1.50pm on Thursday.