BANGKOK (AP) – Outrage spread through social media in Myanmar on Wednesday over images and reports of the alleged killings and arson of 11 villagers captured by government troops in the country’s northwest .
Photos and video of charred corpses in the village of Done Taw in the Sagaing region circulated widely on Tuesday. They were reportedly taken away shortly after the men were killed and their bodies set on fire.
The hardware could not be independently verified. An account given to the Associated Press by a person who said he visited the scene generally matched descriptions of the incident broadcast by Myanmar’s independent media.
The government has not commented on the allegations. If confirmed, they would be the latest atrocity in an increasingly bitter struggle after the military seized power in February and the ousting of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government.
The takeover initially met with non-violent street protests, but after police and soldiers used lethal force against protesters, violence escalated as opponents of the military regime took up arms to defend themselves.
The witness who spoke to the PA said about 50 soldiers entered the village of Done Taw around 11 a.m. on Tuesday, seizing anyone who failed to escape.
“They arrested 11 innocent villagers,” said the witness, who described himself as a farmer and activist and asked to remain anonymous for his own safety,
He added that the captured men were not members of the locally organized People’s Defense Force, which sometimes engages the army in combat. He said the captives had their hands tied behind them and were set on fire.
He gave no reason for the aggression of the soldiers. Burmese media accounts said they appeared to have acted in retaliation for an attack earlier in the morning by members of the People’s Defense Forces.
Other witnesses quoted in Burmese media said the victims were members of a defense force, although the witness who spoke to the PA described them as members of a protection group of less formally organized village.
There is resistance activity in the cities and the countryside, but the fighting is most deadly in rural areas where the army can deploy greater force against its targets. In recent months, the struggle has been fiercest in Sagaing and other parts of the northwest.
UN spokesman Stéphane Dujarric expressed deep concern at reports of “the horrible murder of 11 people” and strongly condemned the violence, saying “credible information indicates that five children were among those killed “.
Dujarric reminded Myanmar’s military authorities of their obligations under international law to ensure the safety and protection of civilians and called for those responsible for “this heinous act” to be held accountable.
He reiterated the UN condemnation of the violence of Myanmar’s security forces and stressed that this requires a unified international response. As of December 8, he said, “security forces have killed more than 1,300 unarmed people, including more than 75 children, using lethal force or while in their custody since the capture. military control on February 1 “.
Done Taw’s alleged murder has been strongly decried by Myanmar’s underground government of national unity, which has established itself as the country’s alternative administrative body in place of the military government.
“On December 7 in the Sagaing region, sickening scenes reminiscent of the Islamic State terrorist group witnessed the escalation of their terrorist acts by the military,” organization spokesman Dr Sasa said. in a press release.
“The sheer brutality, savagery and cruelty of these acts show a new depth of depravity and prove that, despite the pretext of the relative easing observed in recent months, the junta never intended to defuse its campaign of violence, ”said Sasa, who uses only one name.
The allegations follow Suu Kyi’s conviction on Monday for incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions and a four-year prison sentence, which was quickly cut in half. The court’s action has been widely criticized as a further effort by the country’s military rulers to roll back the democratic gains of recent years.
In New York, the UN Security Council on Wednesday expressed “deep concern” over the sentencing of Suu Kyi, ousted President Win Myint and others and reiterated previous calls for the release of all people arbitrarily detained since the February 1 military takeover.
“The members of the Security Council reiterated their continued support for the democratic transition in Myanmar, and stressed the need to maintain democratic institutions and processes, refrain from violence, continue constructive dialogue and reconciliation in accordance with the will and interests of the people. Myanmar, fully respect human rights and fundamental freedoms and uphold the rule of law, ”a statement from the council said.