Demands to Free Children Held by Myanmar Junta After School Attack

By The Irrawaddy 29 September 2022

Around 20 civilians, including children, are still detained by Myanmar’s junta following the attack on the Depayin Township school in Sagaing Region.

At least 12 people, including seven children, were killed in the helicopter and ground assault on the school in the Let Yet Kone village monastery on September 16, where about 200 children were studying.

The regime claimed the school was a resistance stronghold.

Junta troops cremated the bodies and took 12 injured children and some civilians. One child, who suffered serious eye injuries, has been released and the rest remain under detention.

“We talk to the children by phone and they say they are OK. We are not allowed to see them. We heard they are in Ye-U. I heard one child was sent to Yangon, perhaps for surgery,” a resident told The Irrawaddy.

One of the children, Maung Zaw Ko Oo, has died in detention, according to Daw Aye Mar Swe, a teacher at the school.

She urged the international community to hold the perpetrators accountable.

“No matter what material assistance is given to Myanmar, we will have to flee unless the dictatorship is defeated. Please help us to end the dictatorship. I urge the world not to ignore Myanmar,” she said.

The regime claimed only two children were seriously injured in the attack and has made no statement about the condition of the detainees.

A Depayin volunteer helping displaced people called on the regime to hand over the children.

“The parents are extremely concerned about their health. This cannot happen again,” he said.

United Nations children’s charity Unicef and Save the Children have been criticized for only offering condolences and not blaming the regime for the attack.

Ko Bo Kyi of the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners said: “NGOs must help those in need without fear or favor. It seems they are trying not to offend the regime. It is unacceptable. From their statements, we can see that they fear the regime more than Myanmar’s citizens do. The statements did not even mention that the junta attacked the school.”

Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe, minister for women, child and youth affairs for the civilian National Unity Government, said on Monday that her shadow ministry has not been able to contact Unicef’s office in Myanmar.

The International Committee of the Red Cross has not commented on the massacre.

The organization previously mediated with the ethnic armed organizations for the release of prisoners of war and should now urge the regime to hand back the children, according to civil society organizations.