The United Nations has called for an investigation into a massacre of displaced civilians in Kayah State, eastern Myanmar, and condemned the incident
Around 35 civilians, including women and children, were killed and burned in seven vehicles by junta soldiers on Friday near Moso village in Hpruso Township, Kayah State, according to the Karenni Nationalities Defense Forces (KNDF), an alliance of armed resistance groups fighting the regime.
The UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths said he was horrified by the reports of massacred civilians, including at least one child.
“I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” said the British diplomat.
He called for a thorough and transparent investigation into the attack to bring the perpetrators to justice.
The massacre happened after an hourlong battle between junta troops and the KNDF. Soldiers detained villagers near Moso and burned them with seven vehicles and five motorbikes, according to the KNDF, which was formed after the coup to resist military rule.
Four members of the Karenni Nationalities People’s Liberation Front were tied up and shot in the head while they were negotiating with junta forces for the release of the 35 civilians, according to the ethnic armed group.
The group agreed a ceasefire with the former junta in 1994 and was transformed into a border guard force under military supervision.
It condemned Friday’s crimes against civilians and its members.
Two members of the international humanitarian group Save the Children were caught up in the incident and are missing.
The charity confirmed that the staff’s vehicle was attacked and burned out.
“We are horrified at the violence carried out against innocent civilians and our staff, who are dedicated humanitarians, supporting millions of children in need across Myanmar,” said Inger Ashing, chief executive of Save the Children.
It said at least 38 people, including women and children, were killed in the incident.
The Karenni State Consultative Council said the villagers were burned alive after being tied up in the vehicles. The council was formed in April by elected lawmakers and representatives of political parties, ethnic armed organizations and civil-society groups.
The junta-controlled media said the seven vehicles were carrying “extremists” from people’s defense forces and the Karenni National Progressive Party, who refused to stop and attacked soldiers.
It said the vehicles were also carrying recruits for terrorist training.
The KNDF said the vehicles carried villagers fleeing fighting.
Following the massacre, a joint statement from 59 civil-society organizations called on the international community to refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court and to impose an arms embargo on the “terrorist” junta.
The groups called for targeted sanctions on the regime, its firms and the cronies with business links to the junta.
Armed resistance against the junta began in Kayah State in late May and nearly half of the state’s population of 150,000 has been displaced by fighting.
Junta atrocities continue, including torture, burning alive and arbitrary killings, using civilians as human shields, shelling residential areas, looting and burning houses and acts of sexual violence, especially Magwe and Sagaing regions and Chin, Shan, Kayah and Karen states, where resistance is most active.
By Saturday, the junta had killed 1,375 people and detained 11,202 others since the Feb. 1 coup, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors the regime.
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