On Friday afternoon in Dingga Village in Burma’s northern Kachin state, Burmese soldiers set fire to a building that houses the kitchen belonging to a Baptist church, local villagers report.
While troops from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and local villagers were able to save the actual church building, 5 wooden homes located near the church were completely destroyed by the flames.
Local villagers report that the arson was carried out by soldiers from the Dawhpumyang-based Infantry Battalion No. 142 and Myitkyina-based Infantry Battalion No. 37. The soldiers were passing through the area while retreating from the frontlines.
Late on Wednesday, fighting erupted near Dingga Village, located about three miles south of Dawhpumyang on the Myitkyina to Manmaw (Bhamo) road.
Earlier this week Burmese soldiers in the area appeared to have halted their offensive. The temporary break in the conflict coincided with the visit of a UN team to the KIA’s headquarters in nearby Laiza, the Burmese offensive resumed however, once the UN team was gone from the area.
A KIA officer reached by phone told the Kachin News Group today that in the outskirts of Dingga village he saw more than 10 mounds where fallen Burmese soldiers had recently been buried. He reported that a Burmese officer was among those killed in the area.
The officer also said that the Burmese army’s arson attack on the village appeared to be in retaliation for losing so many of their comrades to the Kachin opposition.
More than 30,000 Kachin civilians have fled to refugee camps run by the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) since June, when the Burmese army unilaterally ended a 17 year cease fire with the KIO.
A recent report published by the US based NGO Physicians for Human Rights found strong evidence that Burma’s army has committed numerous war crimes against the civilian population caught up in the Kachin conflict. The report which was released last month accused Burmese forces of committing acts of rape, summary execution and torture against Kachin civilians.