Five people have been killed in airstrikes on two villages inhabited by ethnic Karens in Mutraw district in Myanmar's Karen state.
Two human rights organizations said on Friday that two churches were destroyed in the airstrikes, noting that those deceased included a Baptist pastor, a Catholic deacon, a church layman, and a mother with her 2-year-old daughter. According to the Karen Women’s Organization and the Free Burma Rangers, in the Thursday airstrikes another woman and her child were also wounded in a second village.
“Air strikes are killing civilians and destroying homes, medical centers, churches, schools, libraries, and monasteries,” the Karen women’s group said in a statement.
The Free Burma Rangers said their volunteers watched from a distance as jets made two bombing runs on Thursday over Lay Wah, one of the attacked villages in Karen state’s Mutraw district, also called Papun.
They said the volunteers arrived after dark at Lay Wah, where the five people died and the churches were destroyed.
The other bombed village was Paw Khee Lah, where the other woman and her child were wounded, according to the Karen women’s group.
Ethnic Karen minority groups, who live largely in the eastern part of Myanmar along the border with Thailand, have been fighting for decades for greater autonomy from the central government.
Fighting increased after February 2021, when the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The Karen National Union (KNU), one of the largest rebels groups in Myanmar, has been fighting against Myanmar’s military forces.
Myanmar’s military forces have also been fighting ethnic rebels groups who inhabit the Kachin Hills in Northern Myanmar's Kachin State and neighboring Yunnan Province, China.
In 2017, Myanmar military's forced hundreds of thousands of the Southeast Asian country's Muslim minority to flee from their homeland of Rakhine state to neighboring Bangladesh.
Refugees described how Myanmar’s military forces massacred and gang-raped the Rohingyas, throwing their children into raging fires.
More than 390 villages were either partly or completely destroyed, largely by fire. This amounted to 40 percent of villages in northern Rakhine state.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) estimated at least 10,000 people died.
The 2017 clampdown of the Rohingya by Myanmar’s military forces is the subject of a genocide investigation by the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The Rohingya, who have lived in Myanmar for generations, are denied citizenship and are branded illegal immigrants from Bangladesh, which likewise denies them citizenship.