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'Horrified' U.N. official condemns reported killings of civilians in Myanmar

WorldDec 28, 2021 11:42AM ET
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© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Martin Griffiths attends an aid conference for Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, September 13, 2021. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse/File Photo

(Reuters) -A senior U.N. official called on Myanmar authorities to investigate the reported killing of at least 35 civilians that opposition activists blamed on government soldiers, saying he was "horrified" at the violence.

The ruling military has not commented on the killings near Mo So village in Kayah State on Friday and several calls since Saturday to junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun went unanswered.

State media reported on Sunday that soldiers had fired on and killed an unspecified number of "terrorists with weapons" in the village. It did not say anything about civilians.

U.N. Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said there were credible reports the civilians, including at least one child, were forced from vehicles, killed and burned. He did not elaborate on why he considered the reports credible.

"I am horrified by reports of an attack against civilians... I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law," he said in a statement.

Griffiths called for "a thorough and transparent" investigation so the perpetrators could be brought to justice.

The Save the Children aid group said two of its workers, travelling to their home villages for the year-end holiday, had been killed by the Myanmar military in the attack. It suspended operations in Kayah State and parts of neighbouring Karen State and the Magway region.

The two staff were both new fathers who were passionate about educating children, the group said in a statement on Tuesday, adding that violence against civilians was intolerable.

"The UN Security Council must convene as soon as possible to set out the steps they will take to hold those responsible to account," chief executive Inger Ashing said.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken condemned the attacks and called on the international community to end the sale of arms and dual-use technology to the Myanmar military in an effort to prevent the "recurrence of atrocities".

"The targeting of innocent people and humanitarian actors is unacceptable, and the military’s widespread atrocities against the people of Burma underscore the urgency of holding its members accountable," Blinken said in a statement, using another name for the country.

Two residents and the Karenni Human Rights Group, which operates in the area, said soldiers had killed more than 30 civilians.

They said details were sketchy but it appeared the victims had been in vehicles, including at least one truck, that were stopped on a road. They were killed and the bodies set ablaze, the residents and the rights group said.

CHARRED BODIES

A villager who declined to be identified for security reasons said he knew there had been a fire at the site on Friday but could not go there as there was shooting.

"I went to see this morning. I saw dead bodies that had been burnt and also the clothes of children and women spread around," he told Reuters by phone on Saturday.

Photographs posted by the rights group showed charred bodies, some in the back of a burned-out truck. Reuters was not able to independently verify the authenticity of the pictures.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military on Feb. 1 overthrew the elected government of Nobel Prize laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Some opponents of the military have taken up arms, some linking up with ethnic minority guerrillas who have for years been fighting the government for self-determination in various parts of the country, including Kayah State in the east.

The killings and burning of bodies in Kayah State followed similar violence https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/myanmar-soldiers-accused-killing-11-after-charred-remains-found-2021-12-08 in the central Sagaing region on Dec. 7 when villagers said soldiers rounded up 11 people, shot them and then set fire to their bodies.

The military government has not commented on that incident.

Since Myanmar's military launched the coup, more than 1,300 people have been killed in crackdowns on protests and more than 11,000 have been jailed, according to a tally by the Association for Assistance of Political Prisoners rights group.

The military disputes the group's death toll.

Fighting has also flared in Karen State, also in the east, between the army and the Karen National Union (KNU) insurgent group.

Thai authorities say more than 5,000 villagers from Myanmar have fled across a border river to the safety of Thai territory since Dec. 16.

'Horrified' U.N. official condemns reported killings of civilians in Myanmar
 

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Comments (2)
Chuck Monaco
Chuck Monaco Dec 27, 2021 4:06AM ET
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The UN and its members are a pathetic bunch of useless beaurocrats, talking about accountability whilst comfortably forgetting that they themselves have allowesd this savage ********hoard of junta generals to prosper and grow through their systemic inactions in myanmar for the last 50 years!This barbaric hoard of terrorists are sub-human elements that must not be protected by any human rights convention and they do not enjoy the benefits of the geneva convention as they are not an “army”! The UN at its members have only one option, to intervene on the ground with a peace force and supply all civilians able and willing to defend themselves with appropriate weapons and training!All other strategies have been tried and tested by the UN at the expense of hundreds of thousands of civilians who were tortured, abducted and slaughtered and thousands of villages and cities burned to the ground and have therefore utterly failed to provide any stability and long term relieve!fir the UN and
Roger Smith
Roger Smith Dec 27, 2021 1:30AM ET
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Where have these officials been for the last 12 months. Are they living in an altered reality. Why is it so shocking that the despotic Myanmar junta It’s ***Innocent people. The only way this is going to stab is by divine intervention Either by the UN or some other country. The *****with Russia and the *****with China. The leader of the junta Main objective is to annihilate all those who oppose their agenda and the regime.
 
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