At least 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, were reportedly shot dead in central Myanmar last week in what opponents of military rule have claimed to be a massacre of civilians. The post-mortem report by a doctor showed bullet wounds to the torso and heads of the dead bodies, and bullet holes in the walls of the monastery. However, the country’s junta, which staged a coup two years ago, said that its troops had been involved in clashes with rebel fighters in southern Shan state but had not harmed any civilians.
The junta spokesperson claimed that the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force and another rebel group entered the village of Nan Neint after government forces arrived to provide security with a local people’s militia. The KNDF, on the other hand, said that its soldiers entered Nan Neint on March 12 and found dead bodies scattered at a Buddhist monastery. Fighting has been raging in the area for at least two weeks, with about 100 structures burnt down in and around the site of the alleged massacre in Nan Neint.
Myanmar has been in crisis since the military seized power in February 2021, ending a decade of tentative steps towards democracy by unseating the administration led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi. Resistance movements, some armed, have emerged nationwide, which the military has countered with lethal force and labelled “terrorists”. Some ethnic military forces have also sided against the junta.
The human rights minister in the National Unity Government, Aung Myo Min, said the junta had ramped up combat operations and attacked groups of unarmed civilians in at least four instances in the last two weeks. “It is clearly evident that the strategy of the junta is to target civilians, which is a crime against humanity,” he told reporters in an online media conference. The junta has denied it targets civilians, saying its troops only respond to attacks by “terrorists”.
The ongoing violence in Myanmar has caused deep concern among the international community, with several countries and organizations condemning the military’s actions and calling for an end to the crisis.
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