Photos showing aftermath of Myanmar massacre fuel global outrage
BANGKOK – Photos from the aftermath of a Christmas Eve massacre in eastern Myanmar that reportedly left more than 30 people, including women and children, dead and burned in their vehicles, have spread on the country’s social networks, fueling outrage against the army which seized power in February.
The photos showed the charred bodies of more than 30 people in three burned-out vehicles allegedly shot down by government troops as they fled the fighting. The accounts could not be independently verified.
International aid group Save the Children said two of its employees were missing in the massacre, which sparked outrage against the army that took power after toppling the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. Save the Children has announced the suspension of its operations in the region.
On Sunday, the US embassy in Myanmar expressed dismay at “the barbaric attack in Kayah state which killed at least 35 civilians, including women and children.”
“We will continue to press for the perpetrators of the ongoing campaign of violence against the Burmese people to be held accountable,” he said in a statement.
A villager who said he visited the scene told The Associated Press that the victims fled fighting between armed resistance groups and the Burmese army near the village of Koi Ngan, which is just outside Mo So, Friday. He said they were killed after being stopped by soldiers on their way to refugee camps in the western part of the commune.
Save the Children said two of its employees who were returning home for the holidays after carrying out humanitarian response work in a nearby community were “overtaken by the incident and are still missing”.
“We have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and set on fire,” the group added in a statement. “The army reportedly forced people out of their cars, arrested some, killed others and burned their bodies. “
The government has not commented on the allegations, but an article in the state daily Myanma Alinn on Saturday said fighting near Mo So erupted on Friday when members of the ethnic guerrilla forces, known as the Parti national progressive Karenni, and those who oppose the military drove “suspicious” vehicles and attacked the security forces after refusing to stop.
The newspaper said they included new members who were going to undergo training to fight the army, and that the seven vehicles they were traveling in were destroyed in a fire. He gave no further details about the murders.
The witness told the AP that the remains were burned to the point of unrecognizable and that children’s and women’s clothes were found along with medical supplies and food.
“The bodies were tied with ropes before being set on fire,” said the witness, who requested anonymity because he feared for his safety.
He did not see the time when they were killed, but said he believed some of them were villagers from Mo So who were allegedly arrested by troops on Friday. He denied that those captured were members of locally organized militias.
Myanmar’s independent media reported on Friday that 10 Mo So villagers, including children, were arrested by the military. The media reported that four members of the local paramilitary border guards who went to negotiate their release were reportedly tied up and shot in the head by the military.
The witness said that villagers and anti-government militia groups left the bodies as military troops arrived near Mo So while the bodies were being prepared for cremation.
“This is a heinous crime and the worst Christmas incident. We strongly condemn this massacre as a crime against humanity, ”said Banyar Khun Aung, director of the Karenni Human Rights Group.
Earlier this month, government troops were also accused of rounding up villagers, some believed to be children, of tying them up and slaughtering them. Opposition leader Dr Sasa, who uses only one name, said civilians were burned to death.
Video of the aftermath of the December 7 assault – apparently in retaliation for an attack on a military convoy – showed the charred bodies of 11 people lying in a circle in the middle of what appeared to be the remains of a hut.
Fighting resumed over the weekend on the border with Thailand, where thousands have fled to seek refuge. Local officials said the Burmese military had launched airstrikes and heavy artillery on Lay Kay Kaw, a small town controlled by ethnic Karen guerrillas in neighboring Kayin state, since Friday.
The governor of Thailand’s Tak province, Somchai Charoenkitroongroj, told reporters that around 4,700 people evacuated from Myanmar were in three shelters across the border. Sounds of gunfire and explosions could be heard from across the river dividing countries.
He ordered five border districts to prepare supplies and secure places to receive more refugees from Myanmar.
Myanmar’s military action prompted several Western governments, including the United States, to issue a joint statement condemning “serious human rights violations committed by the military regime across the country.”
“We call on the regime to immediately cease indiscriminate attacks in Karen State and throughout the country, and to ensure the safety of all civilians in accordance with international law,” the joint statement said.