UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has strongly condemned Myanmar’s junta for its attack on a Depayin Township school in Sagaing Region which left 11 children dead and many others injured.
Offering condolences to the families, Guterres stated that the perpetrators of international crimes must be held accountable.
“Even in times of armed conflict, schools must remain areas in which children are granted protection and a safe place to learn,” Tuesday’s statement said. “Attacks on schools and hospitals in contravention of international humanitarian law also constitute one of the six grave violations against children, in times of armed conflict strongly condemned by the Security Council.”
Last Friday, MI-35 helicopters fired on the community school – where about 200 children were being taught in Let Yet Kone village – with machine guns for nearly one hour. The attack killed nine children as young as seven.
Infantry troops then attacked the school inside the monastery compound. Two more children and at least five adults were killed.
Junta troops removed the bodies and around 17 injured children and teachers to hide evidence of the crime. The bodies were cremated at Ye-U cemetery, about 11km away, the next morning.
The civilian National Unity Government Prime Minister Mahn Winn Khaing Than told his cabinet on Tuesday: “Airstrikes on a school where young children are studying is an inhumane and most cruel act. The international community must stop turning a blind eye to the severe human rights violations and war crimes committed against children and other civilians in Myanmar by the terrorist junta.”
UN agencies have been criticized for failing to respond to the incident.
Statements from UN children’s charity Unicef and Save the Children offered condolences and condemned the attack but neither blamed the regime directly, prompting public criticism.
On Wednesday, Unicef Myanmar shared Guterres’ statement, which blamed the junta.
Since the February 2021 coup, at least 382 children have been killed or injured, more than 1,400 have been detained and 142 have been tortured, the UN’s special rapporteur on human rights in Myanmar reported in June.