Burmese army accused of commandeering Kachin Church

Thursday, September 8, 2011

By Joseph DeCaro, Worthy News Correspondent

RANGOON, BURMA (Worthy News)-- Kachin Christians have accused Burma's military of violating their religious rights after government troops seized control of a church in Kachin State, transforming it into a military outpost complete with fortifications, trenches and land mines.

The Katsu Kachin Baptist Church in the village of Katsu was commandeered by the Burmese army last month in its ongoing battle with the Kachin Independence Army .

"They took over the church in Katsu village and started fortifying it," said Mai Li Awng, spokesperson for a local Kachin relief group. "They have banned local villagers from going to the church or traveling around the area ... I don't think they should be allowed to do this because the church is a religious site, and has nothing to do with politics. It's not appropriate to take over a church and turn it into a military base. It's a human rights abuse."

Members of the church sent a letter to Kachin State Chief Minister La John Ngan calling for the removal of the land mines.

"We therefore respectfully would like to urge the Kachin State Chief Minister to remove the mines, give us the normal situation around the church as before and the right to travel safely to farms and paddy fields by taking necessary actions".

An estimated 20,000 Kachin civilians have been displaced by the conflict.