The Myanmar military’s action against civilians critical of its actions, especially in the Chin state, has raised fears amid the community of war crimes. The Chin Human Rights Organization, an NGO, informed EastMojo about the story of Mindat, a town in the Chin state currently under siege by the Myanmar army.
“At least five civilians were reported dead and ten injured, and houses and properties destroyed under heavy bombings from air and ground assaults as junta army lay siege on the town of Mindat,” the CHRO said in its last update on Sunday.
According to the information received, the Chinland Defense Force-Mindat said they made a tactical retreat to save civilian lives from indiscriminate attacks on the town by junta troops using heavy artillery and helicopter gunships. “Possible commission of war crimes may have occurred as there appears to be evidence of grave breaches of the Geneva Convention in the battle for control of Mindat town,” the CHRO said.
Mindat, a town of 15,000 inhabitants with a majority Chin population, has been surrounded by the military junta as part of its crackdown against the Chinland Defence Force.
Speaking with EastMojo, Zauk Ling, a representative of the CHRO, said, “Ever since the coup, the lives of Chins in Myanmar have become very difficult. Like most civilians, we too took to the streets to protest against the coup. Some among us also picked up arms against the junta’s brutality. These are not sophisticated weapons, mind you. Most are hunting rifles that most homes own. They have been resisting the junta and have inflicted casualties on the Burma Army. They demanded that their fellow community members who have been detained/arrested on various charges be released at the earliest. But instead of listening to us, they have been attacking us.”
Ling, who is a resident of Chin state, escaped to Mizoram in February and has been in the region since, said that the junta has been attacking civilians and committing atrocities against them.
On May 15, CHRO informed, “Mindat Town is now under siege and is bracing for an all-out assault by the junta troops from air and by land. The junta has been flying in hundreds of troops by helicopters to crackdown on an armed uprising by local militia known as the Chinland Defense Force-Mindat after it suffered loss during a three three-day-long as infantry reinforcement convoys were ambushed by CDF fighters on the way to Mindat.”
The junta has declared martial law in the town since Thursday and has been accused of serious violations of International Humanitarian and Human Rights Laws. Concerns are growing about possible war crimes against the people of Mindat as the junta troops prepare for an all-out assault.
This is not the first instance of the brazen attacks and attempt of intimidation against Chins in Myanmar. On May 12, the CHRO informed the world about the torture and death of two Chin civilians by Tatmadaw soldiers from Light Infantry Battalion (LIB) 266 operating under the Tactical Operations Command based in Hakha, Chin State. “CHRO is calling for a thorough and independent investigation into the deaths of the two individuals while in custody, as well as all allegations of systematic torture practices currently being used against civilian detainees at the LIB 266 military base detention centre located on Mount Rung,” the organisation said in a statement.
Tler Ling, a 54-year-old local farmer was arrested by Tatmadaw soldiers on Sunday, 9 May having been accused of harbouring CDF members and for alleged possession of a traditional hunting rifle at his farmhouse on the outskirts of Hakha Town.
A second victim, 27-year-old, Kham Bawi who had just arrived from his village and was staying with relatives in Hakha, was arrested separately on the same day. Both were taken to the Tactical Operations Command Center on Mount Rung where they were tortured and later died.
The CHRO said they expect the international media and society to recognise the atrocities that are being committed in the region. “Chin State is probably the least known among the states of Myanmar so we are trying our best to raise our voice and create awareness,” Ling said.
Importantly, the Myanmar military’s action in the Chin state has not gone unnoticed. On May 15, the US Embassy Burma tweeted: “The military’s use of weapons of war against civilians, including this week in Mindat, is a further demonstration of the depths the regime will sink to to hold onto power. We call on the military to cease violence against civilians.”
Similarly, the British Embassy in Myanmar tweeted: “We are aware of increasing violence in Mindat, including reports of the military shooting civilians. Attacks on civilians are illegal and cannot be justified. Evidence of atrocities should be sent to the @UN IIMM so perpetrators can be held to account. https://iimm.un.org/contact-us/”