Myanmar soldiers surrounded and killed 11 people in a village, shooting and then setting them on fire, according to local people and local media reports.
Photos and a video purporting to show charred corpses in Don Taw village in Myanmar’s northwestern Sagaing region circulated Tuesday as outrage spread on social media.
The images were said to have been taken shortly after the men were shot and burned, and that some of the victims were reportedly still alive when they were set on fire. The area has witnessed fierce fighting between junta forces and the militia established by opponents of the military government since the February 1 coup.
Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesperson, expressed deep concern over reports of “the horrific murder of 11 people” and strongly condemned such violence, saying that “credible reports indicate that five children were among those killed.”
The material or claims about how the 11 died could not be independently verified. An account given to the Associated Press by a person who said he went to the scene generally matched descriptions of the incident by Myanmar’s independent media.
A volunteer humanitarian worker in the area, who asked not to be named, told Reuters by phone that troops had entered Don Taw village early Tuesday and the victims died around 11 a.m.
“The troops were just brutally killing anyone they could find,” the volunteer said, citing eyewitness accounts. The volunteer has helped people who have fled Don Taw and other nearby villages and said it was unclear whether the victims were members of the militia or civilians.
Another witness who spoke to the AP corroborated this account, saying that around 50 soldiers marched towards Don Taw village around 11 a.m. Tuesday and captured all those who failed to flee.
“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 in combat with the army. He said that the captives had their hands tied behind their backs and they were set on fire.
Accounts in the Burmese media said the soldiers appeared to have acted in retaliation for an attack that morning by members of the People’s Defense Forces.
Other witnesses quoted in the Myanmar media said the victims were members of a defense force, although the witness who spoke to the AP described them as members of a less formally organized village protection group.
The alleged massacre in Don Taw was denounced by the clandestine Government of Myanmar National Unity, which has established itself in opposition to the government installed by the military.
“On December 7 in the Sagaing region, disgusting scenes reminiscent of the Islamic State terror group witnessed the escalation of its acts of terror by the military,” said the spokesman for the organization, which uses the name Dr. Sasa .
“The sheer brutality, savagery and cruelty of these acts shows a new depth of depravity and shows that, despite the pretense of relative detente observed in recent months, the junta never intended to reduce the escalation of its campaign of violence.”
The board has not commented on the allegations, which if confirmed would represent the latest atrocity in an increasingly fierce struggle since the military’s seizure of power in February and the overthrow of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The indictments follow Monday’s conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi on charges of incitement and violation of coronavirus restrictions and sentence to four years in prison, which was quickly cut in half. The court’s action was widely criticized as a new effort by the country’s military rulers to roll back the democratic gains of recent years.
With Associated Press and Reuters
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism