The humanitarian group Save the Children said Saturday two of its members were missing after Myanmar government troops reportedly rounded up villagers, some believed to be women and children, and fatally shot more than 30 of them near the village of Mo So in Kayah State.
A monitoring group and local media blamed the attack — which culminated in the burning of the bodies — on junta troops. The charred remains of the members of the Karen ethnic minority were discovered in the east of the country, which has been the subject of intermittent violence since a military coup seized power in February 2021.
Those who perished in the onslaught were attempting to evade fighting between the Myanmar military and anti-junta militia groups in their villages, a member of the Karenni Human Rights Group told the news agency DPA on Saturday.
"About 35 people just tried to flee their homes but they met the junta's forces and were arrested, then burnt to death," the Karenni member said.
The government did not immediately comment on the reports, while state media said that army fired at armed "terrorists" in the area. A report in the state-run Myanma Alinn newspaper said clashes broke out near Mo So when Karenni guerrilla forces and rebels drove in "suspicious" vehicles and refused to stop when confronted by the military.
Save the Children aid workers missing
International charity Save the Children reported on Saturday that two of its staff members in the area have been missing since the attack. The field workers were on their way home from a humanitarian mission in the region when their car was attacked and burnt out, Save the Children said.
"Two of our staff, who were traveling home for the holidays after conducting humanitarian response work in a nearby community, were caught up in the incident and remain missing," Save the Children reported on its website. "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."
The international humanitarian organization's Chief Executive Inger Ashing said the attack was "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," Ashing said. "Investigations into the nature of the incident are continuing but attacks against aid workers cannot be tolerated."
UN 'horrified' by killings
Martin Griffiths, the UN undersecretary for humanitarian affairs, said he was "horrified" by reports of the killings.
"I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law," Griffiths said in a statement on Sunday.
"I call upon the authorities to immediately commence a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident," he added.
jsi/dj (AP, dpa, AFP, Reuters)