Myanmar School Attacks Unacceptable Says UNICEF

By The Irrawaddy 3 June 2021

The United Nations has spoken out about the wave of attacks on schools and education staff, a day after the junta reopened public schools, saying such violence is unacceptable and a violation of children’s rights. The United Nations Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) in Myanmar called on all parties to keep schools safe.

“Violence in or around schools is never acceptable. Schools and other education facilities must be protected from conflict and unrest,” UNICEF said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Attacks on places of learning and education personnel and the occupation of education facilities are violations of children’s rights, the agency added, calling on all parties to prioritize keeping places of learning safe at all times.

At least 54 attacks against schools and school personnel were reported from Feb. 1 to May 31, as well as 141 incidents of military use of education facilities, UNICEF said. 39 of those 54 attacks occurred in May.

Since March, cities and town across Myanmar have seen bomb and arson attacks on local administrative offices, police stations and government schools, which were closed until back-to-school day on June 1 and occupied by regime forces as temporary camps. The blasts have become more frequent over the last month.

The junta has claimed that the attacks are being carried out by civilian resistance fighters who have taken up arms in response to the junta’s deadly crackdowns on protesters and to protect civilians from the security forces.

But several people’s defense forces (PDF’s) have blamed the attacks on newly-formed “Pyu Saw Htee” groups made up of pro-junta supporters who are reportedly trained and armed with weapons. The PDF’s claim that the “Pyu Saw Htee” groups are launching attacks on school buildings and private property in order to blacken the name of the civilian resistance fighters.

The PDF’s have said that they will never harm schools or the lives and property of ordinary people, and that they only target regime forces.

Yangon PDF’s jointly announced on Thursday that they will never do anything that could harm local residents, students and children as it is their priority to protect civilians. Recent explosions and attacks that have harmed civilians are not being carried out by the civilian resistance groups, the PDF’s said.

On Tuesday, the military regime insisted on opening schools despite the majority of teachers and students boycotting education in protest at junta rule.

Soldiers could be seen standing guard both outside and inside schools, joining school buses and patrolling around school buildings. The junta claims that the military presence is to provide security, but it has prompted concerns on the part of parents that their children might be subject to arrest or worse.

More than 90% of students didn’t turn up for the first day of school on Tuesday, according to education sources.

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