Save the Children Says Staff Missing After Myanmar Massacre
BANGKOK — The international aid group Save the Children said two of its staffers were missing in a massacre in eastern Myanmar that left more than 30 people, including women and children, dead and burned in their vehicles after they were reportedly shot by government troops as they were fleeing combat.
The aftermath of Christmas Eve murders at Mo So village in Kayah, outside Hpruso Township in Kayah, was captured on social media. It sparked outrage and anger against the military who took over power after the election of Aung San Suu Kyi.
They could not be verified independently. These photos show the burned bodies of more than 30 individuals in three vehicles.
On Sunday, the U.S. Embassy in Myanmar said it was appalled by the “barbaric attack in Kayah state that killed at least 35 civilians, including women and children.”
“We will continue to press for accountability for the perpetrators of the ongoing campaign of violence against the people of Burma,” it said in a statement.
Save the Children stated that they were suspending all operations in the affected region.
A villager who said he went to the scene told The Associated Press that the victims had fled the fighting between armed resistance groups and Myanmar’s army near Koi Ngan village, which is just beside Mo So, on Friday. They were heading for refugee camp in the west part of the township when they were stopped by troops, he said.
Save the Children said that two of its staff who were traveling home for the holidays after conducting humanitarian response work in a nearby community were “caught up in the incident and remain missing.”
“We have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned out,” the group added in a statement. “The military reportedly forced people from their cars, arrested some, killed others and burned their bodies.”
The government has not commented on the allegations, but a report in the state-run Myanma Alinn daily newspaper on Saturday said that the fighting near Mo So broke out on Friday when members of ethnic guerrilla forces, known as the Karenni National Progressive Party, and those opposed to the military drove in “suspicious” vehicles and attacked security forces after refusing to stop.
A newspaper reported that they contained new recruits who were attending army training and that seven of their vehicles were set on fire. The newspaper did not provide any further information about the deaths.
The witness told the AP the remains were burned beyond recognition, and children’s and women’s clothes were found together with medical supplies and food.
“The bodies were tied with ropes before being set on fire,” said the witness, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he feared for his safety.
Although he didn’t see them being killed at the time, he said that a few of them were Mo So villager who were reportedly arrested Friday by soldiers. He said that the captured people were not members of local militia organizations.
Myanmar’s independent media reported on Friday that 10 Mo So villagers including children were arrested by the army. According to media reports, four Border Guard Forces paramilitary Border Guard Forces members who tried to negotiate their release were tied up by the military and shot in the head.
According to the witness, the villager and militia anti-government groups left the bodies when military personnel arrived at Mo So. The bodies were then being cremated.
“It’s a heinous crime and the worst incident during Christmas. We strongly condemn that massacre as a crime against humanity,” said Banyar Khun Aung, director of the Karenni Human Rights Group.
In addition to grabbing villagers (some of whom were children), government troops are also being accused of tying up the victims and killing them. The opposition leader Dr. Sasa said that civilians were killed by burning alive.
A video of the aftermath of the Dec. 7 assault — apparently retaliation for an attack on a military convoy — showed the charred bodies of 11 people lying in a circle amid what appeared to be the remains of a hut.
The fighting resumed at Thailand’s border over the weekend. Thousands fled their homes to find refuge. Local officials said Myanmar’s military had unleashed airstrikes and heavy artillery on Lay Kay Kaw, a small town controlled by ethnic Karen guerrillas in neighboring Kayin state, since Friday.
The governor of Thailand’s Tak province, Somchai Charoenkitroongroj, told reporters that around 4,700 evacuees from Myanmar were in three shelters across the border. You could hear gunfire and explosions across the border.
He instructed five border districts to provide supplies and to ensure that more Myanmar refugees are received.
Myanmar’s military’s action prompted multiple Western governments including the United States to issue a joint statement condemning “serious human rights violations committed by the military regime across the country.”
“We call on the regime to immediately cease its indiscriminate attacks in Karen state and throughout the country, and to ensure the safety of all civilians in line with international law,” the joint statement said.