Myanmar's brutal army, or the Tatmadaw, has pounded the Mindat town in the country's Chin state bordering India's Mizoram state with artillery fire in an unusual escalation of repression.
A locally raised civilian resistance group, Mindat Defense Force, has been blocking the Tatmadaw's entry into the town.
The resistance group is led by armed local policemen, angry youths armed with locally made weapons and possibly some former insurgents of the Chin tribe.
On Tuesday, a Tatmadaw column trying to enter Mindat was ambushed by Mindat Defense Force fighters after breakdown of a local ceasefire.
After that, the Tatmadaw started pounding the town from an artillery base in from Kyaukhtu base in the Magwe region, 33 km from Mindat.
Since 6 a.m. on Thursday, civilians in Mindat said the town was subjected to repeated artillery barrage.
On Thursday, the intensity of artillery increased, killing one Chin teenager and seriously injuring six others
"The use of artillery on civilian population is a huge escalation in Tatmadaw's repression. They have been firing small arms into crowds of protestors but this is unbelievable," said Thomas Thangno, former chairman of Chin National Front over phone to IANS.
"A 17-year-old was killed. They are still firing on us from Kyaukhtu. About six others were injured," said a member of the Mindat Defense Force.
He said the resistance fighters, largely armed with homemade hunting rifles, were bravely facing Tatmadaw troops with automatic rifles and artillery.
On Wednesday night, shootouts between junta troops and resistance fighters occurred at Mindat's police station and a government office near the headquarters of the military's 274 Battalion.
"The artillery battalion is in Kyaukhtu. We agreed a ceasefire with the military after they agreed not to deploy more troops to the town and not to pass through the town in military vehicles," said a Mindat resident.
Civilians later agreed that 17 vehicles carrying around 270 junta troops could pass through from Matupi Township in exchange for the release of five young protesters being held by the security forces.
The ceasefire ended after the military regime reportedly claimed it would release only four of the five.
"Our demands were not met. The fighting that erupted is still going on. They are firing continuously from Kyaukhtu. We also hear planes," said another Mindat Defense Force member.
"There will be no more talks. We will protect our town as best we can."
The use of artillery on civilian targets has raised the spectre of a genocide on the Chin tribes.
On April 24, fighting erupted when Tatmadaw forces reneged on its promises to release seven young anti-regime protesters.
On April 26 and 27, the Mindat Defense Forces attacked military reinforcements approaching the town using homemade weapons, leaving at least 20 junta troops dead.
The military casualties led to talks with residents and the ceasefire.
In early May, civilians allowed military troops to pass through the town.
( 494 Words)