Regime forces killed at least nine people during raids in upper Myanmar villages and detained over 80 primary schoolchildren as potential human shields.
The children, who were released on Monday, were detained for around 36 hours at a Buddhist monastery in Chin Pone Village in Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin Township, after the village and adjacent area were targeted by junta soldiers airlifted by helicopter and indiscriminate airstrikes.
During the raid, the children, who were all under the age of 12 with many around five to seven-years-old, were detained while attending a kindergarten at the monastery.
An adult who was detained with the children told The Irrawaddy on Monday that they tried to evacuate the children to the basement of the monastery when the helicopters landed, but were detained by junta forces.
“They pointed guns at us. We had to beg them not to shoot kids,” said the adult.
Villagers and local People’s Defense Force (PDF) fighters said the regime troops took the children hostage so they could be used as human shields in case of attacks by PDFs.
Some villagers were also arrested during the raid. They were interrogated and beaten by the junta soldiers, who asked them about local resistance fighters.
At least nine people were killed in the raid and some villagers reportedly remain under arrest.
One local said that they found six bodies near a primary school, one near the monastery and two more on the outskirts of the village.
“Almost all were killed by one shot to the head,” he said.
Only one of the victims has been confirmed to be a Chin Pone villager, he added.
Junta forces reportedly threatened to burn down Chin Pone Village during the raid if the villagers who had fled didn’t return.
Some parents have yet to be reunited with their children, despite them being released. Regime troops are suspected of taking four villagers when they left the village on Monday afternoon.
“We are still looking for the children who are missing,” a PDF member said.
Nearby Thapyayaye Village was attacked with airstrikes on Monday.
In a statement released on Monday, the parallel civilian National Unity Government’s Ministry of Women, Youths and Children said they condemned in the strongest possible terms taking children hostage, as well as teachers and their parents.
“Children have a primary claim to protection under international law, and their abduction and hostage-taking comprises a grave violation,” the ministry said.
Since last year’s coup, military regime forces have killed at least 1,582 innocent civilians and arrested over 12,000 people.
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