7 CHIN DEFENDERS KILLED IN CLASHES WITH MYANMAR SOLDIERS
Several people are said to have died during clashes between armed protesters and Myanmar's military junta in the western Chin state over the past few days, Athens Zaw Zaw and Natalie Skrzypczak reported for Deutsche Presse-Agentur (dpa).
According to one of dpa's sources on the ground in the town of Mindat and local media reports, at least seven civilians had been killed as of Sunday but the Chin fighters claimed more than 20 Myanmar troops died in the clashes.
The fatalities had been members of the civilian defense forces in the town who had died during the military's attacks with "heavy weapons," the source, who asked not to be named, told dpa.
Local media outlets Myanmar Now and The Irrawaddy spoke of five to eight fatalities, adding that over a dozen people had been injured during the clashes. The army has not disclosed any possible fatalities on its part yet.
Phil Robertson, Deputy Asia Director for Human Rights Watch on Sunday strongly criticized the military’s operation in Mindat. "Now that the military has taken control in Mindat, new fears have come to the fore about possible arbitrary arrests, abuses and torture in custody, retaliation against militants' families, and other rights abuses long associated with the Tatmadaw operating in the field," he said in a statement, using the official Burmese name for the armed forces.
"Myanmar should recognize the world is watching what is happening in Mindat, stop all human rights abuses, and ensure that all persons remaining there have access to medical care and other critical humanitarian services." According to media reports, thousands of Mindat's inhabitants were forced to leave the town due to the heavy fighting.
The US embassy in Yangon also strongly condemned the junta's activities in the region: "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 hold onto power. We call on the military to cease violence against civilians," it said in a tweet on Saturday.
The Chinland Defense Force (CDF) was formed on April 4 by the civilians in nine townships in Chin state, including Mindat, to defend against what it dubs the junta's bully tactics. Mindat had been the most active town in the fight against the military coup.