ASIA/MYANMAR - Martial law in 61 municipalities; Radio Veritas, source of hope

Wednesday, 6 March 2024 civil war   catholic radios   evangelization   lent  

Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - The ruling military junta in Myanmar has imposed martial law in a total of 61 municipalities, bringing a total of 8.2 million people under this measure. The figure of 61 municipalities was reached after the regime imposed martial law in three new municipalities in Shan State (Mantong, Namhsan and Namtu) in recent days.
However, these communities are under the control of the Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), which is part of the alliance of opposition forces. The Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA), the Arakan Army and the Army of the National Democratic Alliance of Myanmar, formed the "Three Brotherhood Ethnic Alliance", which - together with the spontaneous militias of the "People's Defense Forces" - launched an offensive known as "Operation 1027" in October 2023 in particular against military outposts in the north of the country (see Fides, 23/11/2023). Burmese citizens living under martial law are currently located in the Yangon, Mandalay, Sagaing, Magwe, Bago and Tanintharyi regions and belong to the Shan, Chin, Mon, Karen and Karenni, Bamar ethnic groups. Martial law was declared in eight municipalities in 2021, 48 more in 2023 and five more in 2024. There is a curfew in these areas with traffic restrictions between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. "Myanmar's sovereignty remains intact," said junta spokesman General Zaw Min Tun. However, observers note that the army is imposing martial law in areas, districts and municipalities over which it has lost control, therefore in areas that it should try to regain. From the Sagaing region in the north of the country, one of the areas most affected by the clashes, reports Father Joseph Thang Nen Zo Mung, head of the Social Communications in the diocese of Kalay - an area with 60 thousand Catholics out of approximately one million inhabitants, "fighting continues and people have no choice but to flee, increasing the number of internally displaced people." "Some try to return but then flee again. There is a lot of mobility, people are looking for refuge and safety because the army continues to attack villages," he notes. The Catholic priest is concerned about the situation of young people who "strive for freedom and truth, who fight and pray" and do not want to join the regular army that "fights against the people." For this reason, he explains, "they prefer to leave the country: many go to Malaysia, Thailand, India", while bishops, priests and Christian religious are under strict military surveillance and are not allowed to take political positions otherwise they risk a prison sentence.
Father Joseph Thang also contributes to the Chin language service of "Radio Veritas Asia", the Catholic radio of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC). The radio offers programs with spiritual content in various languages spoken in Myanmar such as Chin, Karen, Kachin and Bamar. "In this difficult time," said the priest, "the radio is a spiritual support, a consolation for all the faithful who experience displacement, hardship and uncertainty. In this very difficult period of Lent, in which many parishes are closed due to the conflict, the service of broadcasting masses, homilies, catechesis and spiritual reflections is even more appreciated by the faithful in Myanmar: it helps to keep faith, hope and charity alive". (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 6/3/2024)