Experts warn that the junta's brutal campaign of violence is accelerating. [Stringer/REUTERS]
Four teenage medics have reportedly been slaughtered in Myanmar, the latest in a series of “horrific acts of violence” allegedly committed by the junta.
The deadly attack on unarmed civilians comes after footage emerged of a soldier filming a village massacre on his phone, while people living in border regions are strafed by fighter jets.
The UN’s special envoy for Myanmar, Tom Andrews, has warned that the junta’s brutal campaign of violence is accelerating, and urged the UN to do more to help restore democratic rule after the nation was plunged into crisis by a February 2021 coup.
“The failure to take strong, meaningful action will be a death sentence for untold numbers of people,” he said this month. According to his latest assessment, more than 2,500 civilians have been killed, over one million internally displaced, and some 11,000 have been arbitrarily detained by the military.
But despite mounting reports of atrocities, China has renewed economic engagement with Myanmar, allowing the regime to promote its legitimacy.
Many of the attacks have focused on the central region of Sagaing, which is at the heart of the resistance. Last week four teenagers – two boys and two girls – were among a group of nine unarmed civilians believed to have been detained and then shot dead by the military while on their way to medical training, according to Radio Free Asia.
“Now that this has happened, I’m heartbroken. I’m so numb and I feel like I have nothing inside,” the mother of one of the teenage victims said. “She wanted to [volunteer], even though she was so young. She always said she wanted to have a role she could play.”
This month footage of more horror in the region also emerged, when a soldier’s phone – which was apparently lost near the village of Mon Taing Pin – revealed rare photographic evidence of a massacre that took place in May.
Graphic images obtained by RFA Burmese showed tangled bodies and blood seeping into the ground, while armed men bragged about how they had killed villagers with guns and knives.
‘We slit their throats’
In one 10.5-minute-video exchange, three soldiers chat cruelly about the number of people they have slaughtered and what they did with the bodies.
“You said you killed 26 people. How did you kill them? Just shooting them with a gun?” the phone’s owner asks his colleague.
“Of course, we killed them with our guns,” he replies.
“For us, we even killed a lot by slitting their throats. I, myself, killed five,” said the phone’s owner.
The junta’s deputy information minister, Major General Zaw Min Tun, told RFA that the authorities had opened an investigation into the matter.
A tweet detailing the victims of the Myanmar military's killings. [Phil Robertson/Twitter]
But the killings appear to be linked to the junta’s suspicions of the People’s Defence Forces, which were formed to oppose the military’s brutal rule.
The attacks fit a pattern that has emerged in the 18 month civil war: soldier’s arbitrarily detain residents during village raids before torturing, raping, murdering and burning the homes of people they suspect of aiding the armed resistance.
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an NGO documenting the regime’s violent crackdown, the military has killed more than 2,000 people since the coup, including close to 700 in Sagaing.
Meanwhile, hundreds from Myanmar’s Karen minority have been streaming across the border into Thailand to escape fighter jets pounding their villages.
Thailand said on Friday that Myanmar had apologised after one military aircraft crossed into Thai airspace on a bombing run along the border, forcing authorities to evacuate hundreds of schoolchildren and scramble air force jets to the area.
Despite the ongoing turmoil, foreign ministers from China and five Southeast Asian nations gathered in the Myanmar tourist destination of Bagan this week for the first time since the coup to discuss economic cooperation.
Wang Yi, the Chinese foreign minister, also met separately with his counterpart, Wunna Maung Lin, and agreed to speed up work on the China-Myanmar Economic Corridor – an infrastructure project linked to Beijing’s Belt and Road initiative.
General Zaw Min Tun said the meetings were a recognition of Myanmar’s sovereignty and its government. But Human Rights Watch (HRW) said China’s action undermined efforts to hold the junta to account through targeted sanctions.
“It’s not surprising but it’s still appalling to see the way the Chinese government is so willing to give cover to a military junta implicated in war crimes and crimes against humanity,” said Elaine Pearson, acting Asia director at HRW.
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