Atrocities committed by the Myanmar military forces in eastern Karenni State amount to war crimes, prominent human rights group Fortify Rights stated in a new report published on Tuesday, February 15. Junta leaders, who ousted the former democratically elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi, have cracked down on the civilians after seizing power from the elected administration and have since launched attacks on the residential homes, public venues, camps for displaced people and other non-military targets across several regions between May 2021 and January 2022, the rights group have said.
Myanmar military junta has killed close to 61 civilians in the short span between 2021 and 2022 and has used several civilians as human shields in the specific area known as the Kayah State. The new report was published as foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) prepare to hold a meeting in Cambodia on the Myanmar crisis. There has been no significant progress in deterring the military Junta to end the violence and war crimes in the Southeast Asian country.
Eyewitnesses and survivors in Myanmar have relayed accounts of the soldiers shooting civilians as young as 17 and arbitrarily detaining many others. Since the military’s seizure of power, footages have been widely circulated that depicted the Junta soldiers torturing and then later burying the bodies of the civilians in trenches and shallow graves as a collective reprisal against those who raised the democratic voices.
“The Myanmar junta is murdering people with weapons procured on the global market, and that must stop,” Ismail Wolff, Regional Director at Fortify Rights said in a statement. “Clear and definitive action is needed to compel the Myanmar junta to rethink its attacks on civilians. The UN Security Council must urgently impose a global arms embargo on the Myanmar military, and it would be strategic and sensible for ASEAN to support it.”
Shocking testimonies from 31 eye-witnesses and survivors
The newly published report was based on the testimonies of at least 31 eye-witnesses and survivors and includes the Christmas Eve killings in Hpruso Township. In the shocking event, over 40 civilians, including a child and two Save the Children staff were brutally murdered by the Junta. Among the five bodies found by the doctors, were 4 women and a girl under the age of 15.
“Some had their mouths stuffed with cloth, so we were pretty sure these people were gagged,” the doctor told Fortify Rights. “Almost every skull was fractured and badly cracked . . . [In some bodies], we could gather enough evidence to say they were burned to death alive.”
Among others was an 18 year old, and two men who were used as human shields. “The soldiers put their guns on our shoulders and shot PDFs, staying behind us,” the man told Fortify Rights. “We were kept tied up and blindfolded. We were tortured a lot, in so many ways. They kicked our bodies, hit our heads with gun handles, and more.” Fortify Rights said three of the men eventually escaped, but it was unable to confirm what had happened to the fourth.