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Rising Child Death Toll Brings Sharp Criticism Upon Myanmar Military

Myanmar’s bloodiest weekend since the Feb. 1 military takeover raised the child death toll to 38 among more than 500 killed as the junta’s increasingly violent suppression of anti-military protests drew a trade suspension from the United States and calls from Britain for U.N. Security Council action.

On Armed Forces Day in Myanmar Saturday, security forces killed at least 110 people, including eight children, some of whom were hit by bullets inside their own homes, according to RFA sources.

Htoo Myat Win, 13, was killed by police gunfire in his home in the northern Sagaing region.

His mother told RFA’s Myanmar Service that the attack was unprovoked.

“He was just a little boy and did not understand anything. He didn’t do anything. He didn’t even look outside when the protesters passed on the street because he was content just playing his games,” she said.

“If they wanted to intimidate or disperse the crowd, they should have shot upwards into the sky. Instead, they take aim to shoot people. Why? The bullet went right through my boy and my old heart is broken now,” said the grieving mother.

Two other youngsters, both from the Mandalay region, were killed in their homes that day: a 14-year-old girl who was shot in the chest, and a 13-year-old boy who was playing at home when he was shot in the back of the head.

“These children are the future of our country and killing them is like killing our country’s future,” a spokesman for local rights group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) told RFA.

“These kids are so young, and it is unthinkable that they could be shot inside their own homes. Children have no security now, and they will suffer psychological trauma and have feelings of insecurity,” said the spokesman, who requested anonymity for security reasons.

Days earlier, seven-year-old Khin My Chit was shot in the abdomen while sitting on her father’s lap at their house in Mandalay.

“Our whole family is devastated, and we pray that other children will not have to face the same fate.” Khin Myo Chit’s elder sister told RFA of the child’s death on March 23.

“We never thought that they would be this cruel. They keep saying they are there to defend the people. Look at all the atrocities these days. Is this what they mean by defending us? How can we trust the police and the military after all this?” she said.

Fortify Rights, another Myanmar-founded NGO, said killing children was part of the junta’s strategy.

“They are trying to instill fear among the public. It’s one of their ways to intimidate and frighten people into stopping anti-military protests,” Nickey Diamond, a human rights specialist for Fortify Rights, told RFA.

“The international community as well as the United Nations have called for a stop to end these violent actions. Killing children is the worst kind of human rights violations. It’s a crime against humanity,” Diamond said.

International children’s rights groups, meanwhile, condemned the junta for failing to ensure the safety of Myanmar’s children.

“We are truly appalled that children continue to be among the targets of these fatal attacks on protestors. Children are no longer safe in Myanmar, now that girls and boys as young as 7-years old are being shot and killed in their own homes,” said UK-based Save the Children.

“Children in Myanmar have a right to grow up free from violence. The fact that so many children are being killed on an almost daily basis now shows a complete disregard for human life by armed forces,” it said.

UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement Sunday that the attacks on children were child rights violations and those responsible must be held accountable.

“I am appalled by the indiscriminate killing, including of children, taking place in Myanmar and by the failure of security forces to exercise restraint and ensure children’s safety,” Fore said.

“Security forces must immediately refrain from perpetrating abuses of child rights and ensure the security and safety of children at all times. Security forces should cease the occupation of education facilities,” she said

RFA attempted to contact military spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun for comment, but telephone calls went unanswered.

The weekend carnage prompted U.S. Trade Representative Katherine Tai to announce the suspension of trade with Myanmar, effective Monday until the return of a democratically elected government.

“The United States supports the people of Burma in their efforts to restore a democratically elected government, which has been the foundation of Burma’s economic growth and reform,” said Tai.

“The United States strongly condemns the Burmese security forces’ brutal violence against civilians. The killing of peaceful protestors, students, workers, labor leaders, medics, and children has shocked the conscience of the international community. These actions are a direct assault on the country’s transition to democracy and the efforts of the Burmese people to achieve a peaceful and prosperous future.”

Bilateral trade volume between the two countries totaled $1.4 billion in 2020, according to the office of the U.S. Trade Representative.

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also condemned the junta’s violent crackdown on protests.

“We condemn this abhorrent violence against the Burmese people.  The Burmese junta continues to use lethal force against its own people,” Psaki told reporters during a press briefing, using the former name of Myanmar.

“Last week’s killing of children is just the most recent example of the horrific nature of the violence perpetrated by the military regime.  We continue to make clear that we will impose costs on the military regime for the deadly violence against peaceful protestors and the suppression of human rights,” she said.

Britain called for an emergency meeting of the UN Security Council to convene on Wednesday. Any action by the council would face the threat of a veto by Russia and China, authoritarian states which have shielded Myanmar from U.N. action.

Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, urged the council to act against the junta atrocities.

“It’s their job. Members should urgently produce a resolution on #Myanmar & put it to a vote,” Andrews said on Twitter.

“Nations who stand w the people of Myanmar can work together to stop the flow of junta revenue & weapons & hold them accountable,” he said.

Japan condemned the use of live ammunition on protesters welcomed efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to deal with the situation in Myanmar during a discussion in Tokyo with Indonesian Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi, who visited Tokyo.

“The Government of Japan once again strongly urges the Myanmar military to immediately stop resorting to violence against civilians, release those who are detained including State Counsellor Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and swiftly restore Myanmar’s democratic political system,” Japanese Foreign Minister Toshimitsu Motegi in a statement Sunday.

Death toll rises Monday

In Myanmar on Monday, security forces killed at least 10, with unknown number of people wounded.

In Yangon, police and soldiers killed five people in the townships of Thaketa and South Dagon.

“They started shooting from the other side of the road near the gas station on Thuwanna Road at about 10:30 a.m.,” said a witness from Thaketa.  “We fled to the other end of the road as one of us got hit in the head, but they were shooting at us from the other side as well.”

The Thaketa man, who requested anonymity to speak freely, told RFA that the group had to run for their lives as automatic fire rained down upon them.

“Some people got trapped but I escaped. The man who was shot in the head must be dead by now. The soldiers were looking for him, but we picked him up and put him on an ambulance. We hear it was circling around the town because most of the roads were blocked,” he said.

In South Dagon, where there have been shootings every day and night since Friday, residents were able to retrieve two bodies this morning.

Police and soldiers spent the morning clearing barricades and shooting randomly into the streets and at homes.

Witnesses told RFA that the military used hand grenades and RPGs to attack protesters, a claim that RFA could not independently verify.

Aung Ko Oo, a 29-year-old man, was shot Sunday as he walked onto the street from the entrance to his house in Ward 19.

“Yesterday afternoon at about 2 p.m., he was out on the street and a passing military patrol truck shot him. It was just one shot, and he was hit in the temple. He was still alive when we put him on an ambulance and sent him to the hospital, but he passed away around 6:30 p.m.” a witness who requested anonymity told RFA.

Independent news outlet Myanmar Now reported three Sunday deaths in other parts of the city. Soldiers killed Pyay Pyo Maung, 39, and Maung Maung Aye, 30, and Khine Zar Thwe, 26, who was shot in the face.

In the Sagaing region’s Kalaymyo township, the police crackdown on protests Sunday night left five killed and many more wounded. The protests defied a declaration of martial law.

The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an NGO based in Thailand, reported that at least 510 people have been killed in the crackdown as of Monday, while an RFA tally has counted 420.

 

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