Pope Francis celebrates a special mass in the Vatican on May 16 for the people of Myanmar after the military takeover of the country. He prays for peace, unity and for God to deliver us from the power of evil. (AP Photo)
Local militia fighters against Myanmar’s junta have withdrawn from the northwestern city of Mindat after days of attack by artillery-backed combat forces, a member of the group said on Sunday.
The United States and Britain called on the army to avoid civilian casualties, and a shadow national unity government formed by loyalists to the imprisoned elected leader of Myanmar, Aung San Suu Kyi, appealed for international aid.
The fighting in the mountain town of Mindat, about 100 kilometers from the Indian border in the state of Chin, are among the worst since the coup, which plunged Myanmar into chaos with daily protests, strikes and the emergence of new local militias.
« To avoid confrontation, we are concerned about Damage to the city withdrawn, « said one fighter, adding that only women and children remained in the city of more than 40,000 residents was now mostly occupied by the Army.
« With all the boys and men involved in this fight, they are all on the run. »
On the US-funded RFA (Radio Free Asia) website a member of the group was quoted as saying that five of their fighters had been killed.
The local Chinworld news website said the Chinland Defense Force had captured three traffic cops and an « informant » and would execute them if they did the army would not release Chin prisoners. Reuters was unable to contact the group for comment and there was no independent confirmation that they had taken prisoners.
Army-controlled Myawaddy TV announced on Saturday that some security guards had been killed and others went missing after being attacked by « unscrupulous people » in Mindat. Two more attacks on security forces were reported on Sunday the previous day – one in Kanpetlet, also in Chin state, and the other in Shwegu in northern Myanmar.
The fighting in Mindat marks the emergence of the Chinland Defense Force, one of several new groups rising up against the junta in a country with already around two dozen armed ethnic groups.
The militants also say they are part of the people’s defense forces of the shadow government, which the international community has asked for help. </ "We are sad that we cannot protect the people of Mindat. I salute the heroes in Mindat and the people in Myanmar who risk their lives to withstand the brutal repression of the junta," said their Prime Minister Mahn Win Khaing Than in a message.
« We hope people understand that it will take time to train and equip the army. »
« The use of K Targeting civilians by the military, including this week in Mindat, is yet another demonstration of the depths the regime will sink to in order to remain in power, « the US embassy said in a statement. « We call on the military to stop violence against civilians. »
The UK mission said evidence of atrocities should be sent to UN investigators « so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice ».
New York-based Human Rights Watch feared arbitrary arrests, torture, retaliation against family members of militants, and other abuses, Deputy Asia Director Phil Robertson said in a statement.
Western nations have condemned the junta and have imposed limited sanctions since it did took power for fraud in an election won by Suu Kyi’s party in November. Their allegations of irregularities were rejected by the electoral commission.
At least 790 people were killed by junta security forces in raids against protests against their rule, says the activist group of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The military, that Denying this figure, puts severe restrictions on media, information, and the Internet. Reuters cannot independently verify arrests and casualty numbers.
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