Myanmar town shelled by government forces

An office of charity Save the Children was damaged in the attack

Government forces in Myanmar shelled a restive western town on Friday, with an ensuing fire destroying dozens of houses and damaging the office of charity Save the Children, local media reported.

The South-East Asian country has been in chaos since the military carried out a coup in February.

More than 1,200 people have been killed in a campaign against dissent, a local monitoring group said.

So-called self-defence forces have sprung up across Myanmar to take on the junta, leading to an escalation in attacks and bloody reprisals.

Regime forces shelled the town of Thantlang in western Chin state after a confrontation with a self-defence force there, Khit Thit Media and The Chindwin news outlet reported.

A Thantlang resident who fled the town after previous clashes told AFP the shelling began after members of the self-defence force captured a soldier.

"Soon after it happened, heavy artilleries were fired," he said.

He heard that between 80 and 100 houses had been destroyed, he said.

"We don't know if houses were burnt after being hit by artilleries or if they set fire to the houses," he said.

A woman in the town told AFP her house had been destroyed. "We don't even know what to say," she said.

Images published by local media showed pillars of smoke rising from the town built amid green hills.

AFP could not independently verify the reports from the region.

"At least 100 buildings are thought to have been destroyed so far by the fire, which reportedly broke out at around 11am following the use of heavy weapons," Save the Children said.

"Fire continues to tear through the town and there is no fire service available to control the blaze."

It said one of its offices had been damaged.

Most of Thantlang's 7,500 inhabitants left the town during clashes last month, with many fleeing across the border to India.

Save the Children said the town was "largely deserted" when the shelling occurred, and its staff had already left following earlier violence.

Last week, the UN said it feared a human rights catastrophe amid reports of thousands of troops massing in the north and west of the country.

In May, government forces used artillery to flush out rebels from the town of Mindat in southern Chin state and later cut off its water supply, a spokesman for an insurgent group said.

Updated: October 30th 2021, 9:12 AM