The World Must Act to Stop More Myanmar Children From Being Killed
By The Irrawaddy 20 September 2022
Myanmar has seen many “saddest days” since the coup. Last Friday was the latest one. At around 1 p.m., military helicopters, MI-35s, swooped down from the sky and opened fire on their target with their machine guns. Their target was not a battleground but a school where about 200 young students were attending classes. The aerial attack went on for nearly one hour, killing nine children, including two 7-year-olds, as well as six adults in the compound.
Right after the airstrikes, infantry troops encroached and attacked the school, which is located in a monastery in Let Yet Kone Village, Depayin, Sagaing. Two more children were killed by the soldiers.
The roof of the school was ripped off by the airstrikes. Pieces of children’s flesh and bones were scattered all over the place—on a fan, on the ceiling, on the walls and on the floor. Books, schoolbags and sandals belonging to the kids were stained with their blood.
The parents of the victims and witnesses retold this horror story—kids were running and hiding in the school from the attacks; two cried out for help to their teacher who, however, had been hit by a shell; a boy who emerged from his hideout to retrieve his school bag off a desk was shot dead.
“Just kill me, as it hurts too much,” 7-year-old Phone Tay Za, who lost a limb and was hit in the lower part of his body, requested of his mom, who rushed to help him. He soon died.
How horribly the kids were attacked! It was just the latest military operation the ruling junta has launched against a school campus and its innocent children.
But the cruelties didn’t end there.
The junta troops didn’t leave behind any of the victims’ bodies for their families to grieve over, including Phone Tay Za’s. In addition, they forcibly took away 14 injured children and three teachers, saying they would be treated at a hospital. But their parents don’t trust the troops and worry that their kids, too, might have died.
Villagers later found out that those killed were cremated at Ye-U cemetery the next morning, about 11 km away, in an attempt to remove any trace of the killings.
The ruthless military regime has never spared even innocent children. Children have been indiscriminately attacked since the military coup in February 2021. They face a living hell on a daily basis as they are increasingly being targeted by troops in killings, bombings, burnings, torture and arbitrary arrest.
Like their parents and other adult fellow citizens, they have no safe place in military-ruled Myanmar. Whether at schools, in displaced camps, hospitals, religious buildings or their own homes, they have been brutally killed, paralyzed and arrested by junta troops or found themselves running for their lives from the junta’s assaults, airstrikes and shelling.
On the same day as the Depayin school attack, artillery strikes by junta troops killed two sisters, aged 6 and 10, who were taking shelter at a monastery in Moebye in southern Shan State, hundreds of kilometers from Sagaing Region.
The number of such deliberate, deadly attacks and incidents of violence perpetrated by the junta against children mount daily as it continues its terror campaign nationwide.
Over the past one-and-a-half years since the coup, at least 382 children have been killed or maimed, more than 1,400 have been arbitrarily arrested, and 142 have been tortured, according to a report given by the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar at a UN Human Rights Council meeting in June. The first and youngest killed was a 6-year-old girl, Khin Myo Chit, who was shot dead in her father’s arms after junta forces broke into their house in Mandalay in March last year, one month after the coup. Days later, 11-year-old Aye Myat Thu was fatally shot in the head while playing in front of her house in Mon’s State’s capital, Mawlamyine. A 5-year-old boy, Saw Ta Blut Soe, was killed by a bomb during an airstrike in Karen State’s Papun District in the same month.
Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, on June 29 urged the international community to take immediate action to save children from violence perpetrated by the junta, while stressing time is running out to save Myanmar’s children.
It has been almost three months since his call. But Myanmar has seen no such action, just the junta’s continuous brutality against children.
The following is a list compiled by The Irrawaddy of incidents that occurred between June 29 and Sept. 19.
- A 5-year-old boy was shot dead by junta soldiers in Kantbalu Township in Sagaing Region on Sept. 17.
- At least nine children were killed and several others injured by the junta’s heavy airstrikes on their school on Sept. 16 in Let Yet Kone village, Depayin Township, Sagaing Region. Two more children were also shot dead by the troops during a ground raid into the village. According to locals around 17 others including three teachers and injured students were detained by the troops.
- Two sisters—aged 6 and 10—taking shelter at a monastery in Moebye on the Shan-Kayah border were killed along with two women in a junta artillery strike on the morning of Sept. 16.
- A 7-year-old boy was killed in a junta bombardment and some 100 houses and buildings were destroyed in the southern Shan State town of Moebye on Sept. 8.
- A 6-year-old boy Mg Pyae Sone and nine-month-pregnant Ma Phyu Zar Win were killed along with two male villagers in junta airstrikes in Kawlin Township, Sagaing Region on the night of Aug. 23.
- Following two days of occupation by the military, the bodies of a 10-year-old girl and 17-year-old boy were found along with 15 others in the village of Yin Paung Taing in Sagaing’s Yinmabin Township in mid August. The 10-year-old girl was killed by a helicopter bomb while the 17-year-old was shot dead by troops.
- Two teenage siblings were killed by junta forces after being detained in a raid on New Haimual Village in Tedim Township, Chin State, on Aug. 14. Villagers said they recovered the bodies of Mai Lal Nun Puii, 17, and Salai Lal Ruat Mawia, 15, near the village. Soldiers also set fire to houses during the raid.
- Karenni children fled the junta’s indiscriminate air strikes and attacks on Aug. 8 and 9 in the Loikaw area.
- Two children were killed and two more injured on their way back from school as junta forces opened fire on a boat carrying schoolchildren in Paletwa Township on Aug. 2.
- Sixty young children were trapped in their school when Myanmar junta helicopters including two Russian-made MI-35 helicopters attacked Latpankyin Village in Myinmu Township, Sagaing Region, on Aug. 1, although there had been no fighting with anti-regime forces. They were detained by junta soldiers along with their teachers and other villagers. They were not freed until resistance forces rescued them. At least 10 bodies of villagers were found after the raid.
Do not be an accomplice to injustice
It’s a sad reality that the world has turned a blind eye while the children of Myanmar are being slain by soldiers. These tragic incidents involving children show they have no political will to stop the regime from killing (or at least from killing children) in Myanmar more than one year after the coup. Their utter silence is deafening, as if they are giving time to the junta to slaughter more children in Myanmar.
Video: Children shelter from junta air raids in Kayah’s Loikaw area.
It wouldn’t be fair to say that no one has spoken out. Following the Depayin school massacre, UNICEF and Save the Children woke up to release “statements” to offer their “deepest condolences” and “condemned the attack in strongest possible terms” while carefully avoiding naming the “culprit”, maybe not to offend the regime.
Given the seriousness of the latest incident, let’s see whether the international community led by the US at the UN General Assembly will do something more effective to hold the perpetrators of such crimes to account. They should do if they have enough empathy to understand that the children killed in Myanmar are human beings like them, and young enough to be their grandchildren.
The world’s inaction against Myanmar child killers makes it an accomplice to the injustice. It is high time for the international community to begin a series of meaningful punishments of the Myanmar regime for the sake of the innocent young boys and girls who have been slain.