Myanmar’s Military Accused of Massacring and Burning 11 Villagers

(BANGKOK) — Outrage spread on social media in Myanmar on Wednesday over images and accounts of the alleged killing and burning of 11 villagers captured by government troops in the country’s northwest.

Widely circulated Tuesday were photos and videos of the charred bodies in Done Taw village, Sagaing. The bodies had been burned shortly following the murder of two men.

It could not be independently confirmed. The Associated Press was provided with an account by a source who stated that he visited the scene. This description matches the descriptions in independent Myanmar media.
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The allegations have not been confirmed by the government. If confirmed, they would be the latest atrocity in an increasingly bitter struggle following the military’s seizure of power in February and ouster of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

The initial protests were peaceful and nonviolent. However, after soldiers and police opened fire on demonstrators, violence escalated. Eventually, opponents to military rule took arms for self-defense.

Witness who testified to the AP that about 50 troops entered Done Taw village Tuesday morning at around 11 a.m., seizing all those who didn’t flee.

“They arrested 11 innocent villagers,” said the witness, who described himself as a farmer and an activist and asked to remain anonymous for his own safety,

He added that the captured men were not members of the locally organized People’s Defense Force, which sometimes engages the army in combat. He claimed that captives were tied to their arms and set on fire.

He did not give a reason for the soldiers’ assault. Accounts in Myanmar media said they appeared to have acted in retaliation for an attack earlier that morning by People’s Defense Force members.

Others cited by Myanmar media claimed that the victims belonged to a military force. However, the witness who spoke with the AP said they were part of a village protection group.

Although there is resistance activity in both the city and countryside, fighting can be deadly in rural areas because of the greater military power available to the army against its targets. Recent months have seen the most intense fighting in Sagaing and the surrounding areas.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric expressed deep concern at the reports “of the horrific killing of 11 people” and strongly condemned such violence, saying “credible reports indicate that five children were among those people killed.”

Dujarric reminded Myanmar’s military authorities of their obligations under international law to ensure the safety and protection of civilians and called for those responsible “for this heinous act” to be held accountable.

He reiterated the U.N.’s condemnation of violence by Myanmar’s security forces and stressed that this demands a unified international response. As of Dec. 8, he said, “security forces have killed more than 1,300 unarmed individuals, including more than 75 children, through their use of lethal force or while in their custody since the military takeover on Feb. 1.”

The alleged killing in Done Taw was sharply decried by Myanmar’s underground National Unity Government, which has established itself as the country’s alternative administrative body in place of the military-installed government.

“On the 7th of December in Sagaing region, sickening scenes reminiscent of the Islamic State terrorist group bore witness to the the military’s escalation of their acts of terror,” the organization’s spokesperson, Dr. Sasa, said in a statement.

“The sheer brutality, savagery, and cruelty of these acts shows a new depth of depravity, and proves that, despite the pretense of the relative détente seen over the last few months, the junta never had any intention of deescalating their campaign of violence,” said Sasa, who uses one name.

The allegations follow Monday’s conviction of Suu Kyi on charges of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions and sentencing to four years in prison, which was quickly cut in half. The court’s action was widely criticized as a further effort by the country’s military rulers to roll back the democratic gains of recent years.

In New York, the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” at the sentencing of Suu Kyi, ousted President Win Myint and others and reiterated previous calls for the release of all those arbitrarily detained since the Feb. 1 military takeover.

“The members of the Security Council once again stressed their continued support for the democratic transition in Myanmar, and underlined the need to uphold democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, pursue constructive dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people of Myanmar, fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and uphold the rule of law,” a council statement said.


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