Myanmar military forces have killed at least 73 children nationwide in the four months following the February coup that overthrew the elected government, a minister in the parallel government formed by ousted civilian leaders told RFA on Tuesday.
Aung Myo Min, human rights minister under the 10-week-old National Unity Government (NUG), said the figure was based on credible reports from local sources and witness accounts on social media.
Some minors have been killed inside their homes when police and soldiers fired at anti-coup protesters in residential areas, he said.
“Everyone knows that children, no matter how much violence is going around, need to be protected at all times,” Aung Myo Min said. “Children should be protected in accordance with well-accepted children’s rights.”
“Deaths of children are unacceptable, but now, some of them have been intentionally killed, and these are not just violations of human rights but serious crimes,” said the minister, a human rights advocate who is the founder of Equality Myanmar, a top human rights organization in Myanmar.
Htoo Myat Win, 13 was shot in the abdomen by soldiers on March 27 in his home in Shwebo, Sagaing region. His father said he was devastated that he had to use hard-earned savings for the boy’s shinbyu, the Buddhist ceremony which celebrates boys joining a Buddhist monastery as a novice monk, to pay for his funeral.
“I had been saving up for two years for that donation,” the father said. “Last year we couldn’t hold the event because of COVID-19, and now this year he was killed because of the military. I used all the savings for his funeral.”
Another teenager, Sunday Aye, was shot dead by soldiers in Kayan Tharyar village near the town of Loikaw in Kayah state, the same day, said a resident who declined to be named for safety reasons.
The local said the 14-year-old was shot while fleeing from soldiers stationed in the village after his father asked him to buy some food.
Aung Myo Min said the NUG is trying to tell the world stories like that of Sunday Aye.
“We are gathering information on human rights violations,” he said. “We want to let the world know about incidents like the death of Sunday Aye, who was killed in Kayah state.”
The NUG was launched on April 16 by National League for Democracy (NLD) legislators who won seats in the 2020 election that the military overturned, citing unsupported charges of electoral fraud. Joining the veteran politicians are representatives of the country’s major ethnic groups.
On Tuesday, the United Nations issued a statement expressing concern over the rapidly deteriorating security and humanitarian situation in Kayah state in southeastern Myanmar, and called for all parties to take measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure.
Recent indiscriminate attacks by security forces against civilian areas has resulted in the displacement of about 100,000 men, women, and children, many of whom have sought safety in host communities and forests in Kayah and in southern parts of neighboring Shan state, the statement said.
In an interview with RFA on June 3, Guy Taylor, chief of advocacy, partnerships and communication at UNICEF in Myanmar said a total of 55 children — 48 boys and 7 girls — had been killed by military shootings since the Feb. 1 coup.
“The use of force against children and arrests of children, resulting in deaths of children, is unacceptable,” he said. “At the same time, children should be protected from violence and should not be put in danger.”
Taylor said the U.N.’s children’s agency is concerned about the humanitarian situation in Myanmar and is working to provide legal assistance to children and the public.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, a Thailand-based rights and monitoring group, reported that 857 people have been killed in Myanmar since Feb. 1, and more than 4,700 others are being detained by the military regime.
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Roseanne Gerin.