Junta troops and police have taken control of a Christian orphanage in Mandalay’s Pyigyitagon township. They raided the building on Wednesday night, claiming it was being used by People’s Defense Forces (PDFs) following a series of nearby explosions and an attack on a local administrative office.
About 50 children from war-torn Kachin State in northern Myanmar were sheltering in the building when it was raided, according to locals.
The single story building was sealed with a roll of yellow tape and made off-limits, a resident told RFA on condition of anonymity for safety reasons.
“They pulled the children out overnight and sealed off the building at the same time,” the local said.
“We still don’t know where the children were taken … They put a vinyl notice on the building saying it had been seized.”
The notice said the building was connected to PDFs, so no one could enter or try to sell the building or the land, which had been confiscated by the state, the local said.
At around 7 p.m. the same night the power supply to the entire neighborhood was cut and remained off for the entire night, according to residents.
The orphanage was also being used as a private kindergarten, which opened five years ago, according to a woman who used to send her child there. She said the orphans had been brought there over the past two years. Although locals said it was a Christian orphanage they were unclear about which church was running it.
RFA’s calls to junta regional spokesman, Economic Minister Thein Htay, went unanswered on Thursday. But junta spokesman Maj-Gen Zaw Min Tun, speaking at a press conference aired by the junta-controlled MRTV denied the raided house was a Christian orphanage.
Instead, he alleged that it was a PDF safe house rented by the anti-junta militias along with the ethnic Kachin Independence Army rebels to allegedly train on using explosives. “When we sealed the house and investigated it, we found 10 children. The renters said they were orphans but we are still investigating it,” Zaw Min Tun said. “They said they were running an orphanage there but there was no registration or license but just running by their own ways.”
“We even saw online news that they were treating medical patients there. If they were giving medical treatments, it would not be commoners, but could be those in connections with the terrorist groups,” the spokesperson said, appearing to accuse the orphanage of faking their operations.
He said the media coverage was sensationalized fake news meant raising public attention. He added that if the detained children were orphans, authorities will send them to other orphanages after the investigation.
Pyigyitagon’s Ward F administrative office, close to where the orphanage is located, was attacked with a grenade on Tuesday, injuring five people, including the administrator. That night there were explosions in various places around the neighborhood. The junta reacted by removing three shops, and 10 temporary stalls near the administrative office that are normally open in the evening.
At least 786 residential buildings have been sealed off and seized since the Feb. 1, 2021 military coup through to the end of October this year according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
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