Myanmar

Burmese military reportedly killed and burned at least 30 refugees

PHOTO: The Burmese military allegedly killed and burned at least 30 refugees. (via Handout / APF)

Reports are emerging in Myanmar of at least 30 people – including women and children – in Kayah state were killed and burned, allegedly at the hands of the Burmese military junta. Members of the Karenni Human Rights Group stumbled upon the morbid discovery near Mo So Village in Hpruso Town, about 70 kilometres from Thailand’s made Hong Son province to the east.

The group found the charred remains of 30 refugees inside burned-out vehicles attributed to military forces. Photos began to surface online, posted by civilians reporting on the fighting and showing photos of 2 trucks and a car on a local highway, completely gutted by fire. Burned bodies were visible inside in some more graphic photos. Inspections led to confirming the validity of these photos, as they were identified as not seen online before Friday, and satellite data showed a fire around 1 pm that day.

Local defence forces, many of which have formed in the wake of the February 1 coup that saw the Burmese military overthrow the democratically-elected government, said they heard reports that the military stopped cars and possibly burned them along the highway in Hpruso after intense skirmishes on Friday and went to investigate. They discovered the burned vehicles yesterday morning with the charred victims inside.

They reported that they identified 27 bodies based on counting 27 skulls, but said there were more body parts inside, burned so badly they were practically disintegrated and unable to be counted. Locals with the Myanmar Witness monitor programme said local media counted 35 people including women and children killed in the massacre.

The military declared only that 7 vehicles did not stop when the military commanded them to, so they shot and killed an unnamed number of what they labelled as “terrorists with weapons.” Battles between military and People’s Defence Forces have become common in Myanmar but the military has been accused of countless human rights violations for the killing of innocent civilians and peaceful protesters.

The Karenni Nationalities Defense Force says that the victims of the fire were not insurgent fighters like the thousands who have joined forces to resist the military junta, but women and children refugees fleeing for safety.

Humanitarian group Save the Children reported late yesterday that 2 of its Burmese staff members had been caught up in the car burning incident and have now been labelled as missing. The worst is presumed as the organisation reported that they have confirmed that the private car they were travelling was burned. They reported that the military was said to have forcibly removed people from their cars, arrested some, killed others and burned their bodies. They estimated about 38 deaths in total.

The 2 were travelling home for the holidays after conducting humanitarian response work in a nearby community. The group has worked to bring education, healthcare, and food to children in need in Myanmar since 1995.

SOURCE: Save the Children and Bangkok Post, 2

Neill Fronde

Neill is a journalist from the United States with 10+ years broadcasting experience and national news and magazine publications. He graduated with a degree in journalism and communications from the University of California and has been living in Thailand since 2014.