More than 160 buildings in a Myanmar town have been destroyed in fires caused by shelling from government troops, according to local media.
Tensions between Myanmar’s military junta and opposing militia forces have continued to grow since the army seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February.
Now footage has emerged showing burning buildings in Thantlang, located in the northwestern Chin state, with flames and thick billowing smoke rising into the air.
A government spokesman denied “nonsense allegations being reported in the country-destroying media,” and blamed insurgents for instigating the fighting and being responsible for the fires.
Local media and activists have said more than 160 buildings, including at least two churches, have been destroyed since yesterday.
They also claimed the blazes were started after government forces retaliated when they were prevented from ransacking a house in the town by a local militia group, which was made up of citizens trained as soldiers.
The Chin Human Rights Organisation released a statement saying the fires had destroyed at least 200 houses in Thantlang, but the fires have now started to die down.
The statement added: “Most of the structures on the main street, which has shop stalls and all kinds of businesses, have been destroyed.
“There is nothing left to salvage. The manner in which the fire was burning indicates that it was not just the incendiary rocket fires but also deliberately torching of houses and structures manually.”
There were no immediate reports of casualties from the fires.
It comes after the UN and other human rights groups recently warned that the government is preparing to carry out a huge military operation to claim territory in Chin state, as well as the regions of Magway and Sagaing.
Residents in the rugged area have put up strong resistance to military rule despite being only lightly armed with single-shot hunting rifles and homemade weapons.
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The UK humanitarian aid agency Save the Children said its offices was caught up in the shelling as they added the building may “have been deliberately set ablaze”.
Thantlang has previously been targeted by government attacks, which has resulted in more than 10,000 residents leaving to seek refuge over the border in Mizoram, India.