How Myanmar’s military razed villages to crush a growing resistance
For decades, Thantlang had known peace. The town’s mostly Christian residents cherished their home among mountains in northwest Myanmar, where they hosted an annual soccer tournament. At Christmas, they would feast.
All that changed after a military coup in February. Chin state, which includes Thantlang, had emerged as an unlikely stronghold for the resistance as Myanmar spiraled toward civil war.
In August, the military summoned town elders to deliver a warning. A commander “repeatedly told us that the town will be burned down to ash if we do not cooperate with them,” said a pastor from one of Thantlang’s churches, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution.
When the shelling began less than a month later, residents rushed to live-stream the carnage. Rebel fighters had ambushed junta forces, killing several soldiers, and the military responded by bombarding the town and setting more than a dozen mostly wooden homes on fire on Sept. 18.