By Stefan J. Bos, Chief International Correspondent Worthy News
Noeleen Heyzer said Monday she is “deeply concerned” by increased violence in Myanmar’s eastern Kayah State, where women and children were apparently among those massacred.
Aid workers confirmed that government troops shot and even burned villagers w
fleeing ongoing combat in eastern Mo So village just outside the state’s Hpruso township.
In a statement obtained by Worthy News, the Save the Children charity suggested that two of its staff members may have been among those killed. “Two of our staff, who were on the way back to the office after conducting humanitarian response work in a nearby community, were caught up in the incident and remain missing,” the group said.
“We have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned out. The military reportedly forced people from their cars, arrested some, killed others, and burned their bodies.” It was unclear whether all were unconscious or dead when they were burned.
Photos showed the charred bodies of over 30 people in three burned-out vehicles who were reportedly shot by the army.
Footage provided by the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and seen by Worthy News showed smoke and flames billowing from vehicles in Hpruso township, Kayah state.
Inger Ashing, Chief Executive of Save the Children, said the group “condemns this attack as a breach of International Humanitarian Law.”
“We are horrified at the violence carried out against innocent civilians and our staff, who are dedicated humanitarians, supporting millions of children in need across Myanmar. Investigations into the nature of the incident are continuing, but attacks against aid workers cannot be tolerated.”
Save the Children said the Christmas Eve massacre came after working in Myanmar since 1995.
The charity says it provides life-saving health and nutrition, education, and child protection programs through more than 50 partners and 900 staff in Myanmar.
Following Friday’s violence, “We have temporarily suspended our operations in [the areas of] Kayah Chin, and parts of Magway and Kayin. However, we remain committed to helping the most vulnerable children in Myanmar, especially during this time of conflict and crisis,” the group stressed.
U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths urged authorities to investigate the mass killings saying he was “horrified” by reports that at least one child was among those killed. It was at least the second known massacre this month.
On December 7, Myanmar soldiers rounded up and killed 11 people in a village, shooting and then setting them on fire, according to people in the area and local media reports.
Footage showed charred corpses in Don Taw village in the Sagaing region of Myanmar’s northwest, some of them tied-up children.
The massacre of innocent villages was in retaliation to an attack on a military convoy by the locally organized People’s Defense Forces, sources said at the time.
It came as thousands of people, including many Christians, were already displaced by ongoing fighting in the mainly Buddhist nation, where churches had been destroyed and pastors killed by soldiers.
This month alone, at least two Christian pastors were killed for alleged ties to opponents of the junta, several sources confirmed.
Salai Ngwe Kyar, 26, was tortured and killed in the Magway Region after being detained while traveling from his village Thet Kei Taung in the Sidoktaya Township to Saw Township on December 6, Christians said.
Separately, Pastor Om Kee from the Oakphu ward in the Kanpetlet area of Chin State was reportedly arrested on December 11 after visiting his grandmother and killed the next day.
The pastor from the Church of Christ congregation, in his 20s, had a bullet wound to his head, said rights investigators who blamed the army.
U.N. Envoy Heyzer expressed concern about clashes in these and other parts of Myanmar, also known as Burma since the military seized power in February.
She said that “security forces have responded with bloody crackdowns” on those protesting the ouster and detention of elected leader Aung San Suu Kyi and other officials.
More than 1,300 people, including at least 75 children, were killed in coup-related violence, according to several estimates by rights groups and other sources. Among those killed are also many non-Buddhists such as Christians, Worthy News established.
Predominantly Christian ethnic groups are often viewed as a threat to the power base of the Buddhist-dominated Myanmar Armed Forces, known locally as Tatmadaw.
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