Myanmar: seven children killed in junta strike on village school
Students were among 13 people killed in the deadliest attack on children since the military coup last year20 September 2022
Online Desk :
Government helicopters have struck a school in north-central Myanmar, killing at least 13 people, including seven children, in what would be the deadliest attack on children since the junta seized power last year, a school administrator and an aid worker have said.
School administrator Mar Mar* said she was trying to get students to safe hiding places when two of four government Mi-35 helicopters hovering north of Let Yet Kone village in Tabayin, about 110km (70 miles) north-west of Mandalay, began attacking on Friday.
She said the helicopters began firing machine guns and heavier weapons at the school, which has 240 students from kindergarten to year 8 and is located in the compound of the village’s Buddhist monastery.
The UN has documented 260 attacks on schools and education personnel since military ousted the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February last year, but this would be highest number of children to be killed.
Mar Mar said she had not expected trouble, since the aircraft had been over the village before without any incident.
“Since the students had done nothing wrong, I never thought that they would be brutally shot by machine guns,” Mar Mar said.
By the time she and the students and teachers were able to take shelter in the classrooms, one teacher and a 7-year-old student had already been shot in the neck and head.
“They kept shooting into the compound from the air for an hour,” Mar Mar said. “They didn’t stop even for one minute. All we could do at that time was chant Buddhist mantras.”
When the air attack stopped, she said about 80 soldiers entered the monastery compound, firing their guns at the buildings.
The soldiers then ordered everyone in the compound to come out of the buildings. Mar Mar said she saw about 30 students with wounds on their backs, thighs, faces and other parts of the bodies. Some students had lost limbs.
“The children told me that their friends were dying,” she said, adding some injured students told her they were in such pain they wanted to die.
She said at least six students were killed in the school and a 13-year-old boy working at a fishery in a nearby village was also fatally shot. At least six adults were also killed in other parts of the village, she said. The bodies of the dead children were taken away by the soldiers.
More than 20 people, including nine wounded children and three teachers, were also taken by the soldiers, she said. Two of those captured were accused of being members of the anti-government People’s Defence Force, the armed wing of the resistance to the military.
Aung San Suu Kyi pictured in December 2019.
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A volunteer in Tabayin assisting displaced people, who asked not to be identified because of fear of government reprisals, said the bodies of the dead children were cremated by the soldiers in nearby Ye U township.
Mar Mar has been hiding in the village with her three children since fleeing for safety to avoid the government crackdown after participating last year in a civil disobedience movement against the military takeover.
“I am now telling the international community about this because I want redress for our children,” Mar Mar said.
Myanmar Now, an online news service, and other independent Myanmar media also reported the attack and the students’ deaths.
A day after the attack, the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper reported that security forces had gone to check the village after receiving information that the members of the People’s Defence Force were hiding there.
According to the Thailand-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which monitors human rights in Myanmar, at least 2,298 civilians have been killed by the security forces since the army seized power last year.
(Source: The Guardian)