Two civilian youths were killed by military troops early on Thursday while attempting to retrieve food for refugees displaced by clashes between the junta and a local militia in Kayah state’s beleaguered Demawso township, according to residents.
The two young men had sought to retrieve rice from Demawso before dawn and bring it back to residents who were hiding in the jungle after the military had launched an attack on the township a day earlier, but were fired on by troops on patrol in the area, sources said.
“During [Wednesday] night, the whole town of Demawso was under siege by the military and people fled to safety,” one resident told RFA’s Myanmar Service, speaking on condition of anonymity out of fear of reprisal.
“Two youths who went to Ngupalaw Ward to get food for the refugees were … shot dead by the soldiers.”
The resident said that Demawso is now a deserted ruin of shattered windows and walls pockmarked with bullet holes. The town’s St. Joseph Catholic Church was also severely damaged by artillery shells and small arms fire at around 7:00 p.m. on Wednesday, despite pleas a day earlier by Cardinal Charles Maung Bo—the Archbishop of the Catholic Church in Myanmar—that troops refrain from attacking the country’s religious buildings.
Another resident also confirmed that the two young men had been killed by the military and the church targeted.
“They were fetching rice from the village because they had run out of it in the forest,” he said, adding that they were not members of the Karenni State People's Defense Force (KPDF)—a local militia that has repeatedly clashed with the military since it ousted the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1 and began a brutal crackdown on mass protests that has killed more than 800 civilians.
“[The military] also fired on St. Joseph’s Church and all the windows were destroyed. All this should never have happened.”
Third youth killed
A relief worker named Palan told RFA that the bodies of the two youths were buried Thursday morning.
“Two boys carrying food were shot dead by snipers early this morning—we went to get their bodies a while later and buried them,” he said.
“Later, around noon, two columns of soldiers marched into Demawso and a clash ensued on the town’s main road, killing another boy. All the women and children have been moved to safety in western Demawso.”
The KDPF confirmed the deaths and military attack on St. Joseph’s Church in a statement on Thursday.
Thursday’s fighting comes days after military artillery struck the church compound in Demawso, as well as a church in Kayan Tharyar Taung ward in Kayah’s capital Loikaw.
Myanmar’s Military Council said Wednesday it had found “evidence of armed men” hiding inside Kayan Tharyar Taung Church before the attack. It also claimed “local rebels” have been hiding in temples, churches and administrative buildings, and that the military is retaliating in accordance with the country’s Rules of Engagement (ROE).
Nearly four months after the military ousted the country’s democratically elected government on Feb. 1 and began a brutal crackdown on mass protests that has killed more than 800 civilians, the angry residents in Kayah state organized into the Karenni People’s Defense Force (KPDF).
Fighting between the KPDF and the junta’s security forces began on May 22, in Demawso township, when the KPDF killed three police officers and occupied security posts in the region. Aid groups estimate that some 40,000 people have been displaced by the violence since then.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.
This content originally appeared on Radio Free Asia and was authored by Radio Free Asia.