A refugee camp for the indigenous Lumad people in the Philippines was burned down at around 2 a.m. on Wednesday. Various organization and certain officials suspect that the incident was carried out intentionally by paramilitary groups backed by the country's armed forces.
According to CNN, the camp was actually a dormitory inside the compound of the United Church of Christ in the Philippines or UCCP in Davao City. It was then converted into an evacuation center which housed over 700 Lumads who were displaced from their original homes.
As mentioned by the eyewitness, they saw unidentified men enter the camp and pour gasoline on one of the tents in the camp.
Groups supporting victims of the fire, including the labor organization Kilusang Mayo Uno (KMU) and women's party list Gabriela, said that the Lumads believe that the camp was intentionally burned down by the Alamara, PhilStar has learned. This paramilitary faction, which is supported by the Armed Forces of the Philippines, has been accused of harassing, abusing and even killing members of the indigenous group in the region in the past few months.
The KMU alleged that private entities have been using the Alamara to scare and forcefully evict the Lumads from their own lands in order to carry out various industrial operations in the area. In July of last year, local law enforcers and armed groups entered the compound and tried to eject the refugees.
"What are our national and local officials doing to protect the Lumad?" Terry Ridon, a representative of another political party list in the Philippines, said in a statement. "The Lumad evacuees, victims of internal displacement, have sought the refuge in UCCP, yet these paramilitary groups again proved that they will stop at nothing to harm them, even resorting to arson in this latest attack."
Another official added that the suspects violated the sanctuary offered by the church on the displaced individuals, UCA News reported.
Due to the incident, victims and their supporters are calling on the various national officials to carry out thorough investigations to bring the suspects to justice.