Thandaung’s Interfaith Committee’s negotiation with Military Council fails to stop shelling into township

The Interfaith Committee of Thandaung Township, Karen State, has been in talks with the Military Council since March, but these religious leaders appeals have failed to stop the shelling of the township, locals said.

Since the onset of conflict between the Military Council and the local resistance forces in Thandaung, the Military Junta has repeatedly launched artillery attacks on Thandaung Township ever since January 27th.

This has forced many local residents to flee their homes due to safety concerns. In response the Interfaith Committee intervened and approached the Military Council to negotiate for the safe return of the affected civilians. However reports from the locals suggest that the Military Council has continued to shell Thandaung Township, despite negotiation efforts.

The Interfaith Committee made an announcement through churches and places of worship that they had engaged in discussions with the Military Council regarding the safety of those who wanted to return home. As a result, transportation was arranged for their convenience to return to their homes.

The Thandaung Interfaith Committee, composed of representatives from nine Christian churches and monks and trustees from two Buddhist monasteries, engaged in discussions with the Military Council regarding the safety of Thandaung Township.

According to a member of the Committee, after appealing to the Military Council officials deployed in the area, they were assured that no more artillery shells would fall into Thandaung Township.

A member of their committee related, “They promised that if there was no more fighting, not a single shell of their artillery would fall into Thandaung again. However, they are currently shelling Thandaung without any apparent provocation.

Our understanding is that they may be targeting suspicious areas based on intelligence provided by their informants”, the Committee member said.

Unfortunately approximately one-third of the displaced people had returned home after news of this pledge by the military to stop however in fact the Military Council resumed artillery fire, falsely accusing some returnees of being PDF members.

On April 25th, the Military Council’s shelling hit Daemulaw, damaging two houses and injuring a villager. However locals insisted that Loclal Defense Forces (PDF), were not present in the area.

The shelling resulted in the destruction of two houses in Daemulaw village and some artillery rounds landed in nearby rubber plantations and exploded”, a Thandaung resident told the KIC.

The Interfaith Committee’s intervention and coordination is aimed solely at assisting displaced persons who wish to return home, and there is no pressure or obligation for them to do so, he added.

“It is natural for people to desire a peaceful life in their hometown or village. We never compel anyone to return home against their own will. Some individuals inquired whether the Committee would assume responsibility for their security upon returning home. No. Each person must be accountable for their own protection. Our role is to aid those who wish to return home, and we did not anticipate this type of situation arising. We regret the difficulties that individuals have faced, and we sympathize with them”, he told the KIC.

The Military Council’s artillery shelling around Thandaung has somewhat decreased in recent times, resulting in a calmer situation. However, at the 7-Mile checkpoint located near the township, the Military Council is conducting stringent inspections of all individuals, including children, and specifically targeting male pedestrians for searches.

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