Disturbing images of toddlers in holes
Shocking images show children, including a toddler, hiding in holes in a forest after being bombed out of their villages amid a disturbing escalation of violence in their homeland.
The images — taken in Myanmar’s Pupun district near the border with Thailand over the weekend — show the children ducking for cover while the toddler is visibly distressed.
The sheltering children in the images obtained by AFP were reportedly fleeing military air strikes in their home villages were allegedly pushed back by Thai soldiers to the Myanmar side of the border between the two nations.
Ethnic Karen adults and children dug the shelters in the jungle after violence between an armed ethnic armed group Karen National Union (KNU) and the military spiralled over the weekend.
KNU seized a military base in eastern Karen state, killing 10 army officers.
The junta retaliated with air strikes and the KNU says about 12,000 people have been displaced.
Some 2,780 civilians fled across the border but the Thai government said the majority had now gone back to Myanmar — around 200 people were receiving medical treatment in Thailand as of late last week.
Children are increasingly becoming the target of deadly attacks from security forces in Myanmar, which has been rocked by over two months of violence since the military took over.
Yesterday, a father spoke out about the chilling moment he discovered his daughter had been shot dead by a suspected security force member while she was playing at home.
At least 43 children have been killed by armed forces, according to rights organisation Save the Children.
The group said the South East Asian country was in a “nightmare situation”, with the youngest known victim just six years old. It said the army is demonstrating the “utter disrespect of armed forces for the lives of children”.
“This is a nightmare scenario unfolding,” the group said. “Innocent children have had their futures brutally and needlessly snatched away from them. Grieving families – among them young children who have seen siblings die – are suffering unimaginable loss and pain.”
More than 2,500 people have been detained since the coup, according to local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners. It also recorded the death toll as 564 as of Sunday, as security forces continue to use lethal force against protesters.
Australian couple released from house arrest
Meanwhile, an Australian couple was released from house arrest in Myanmar and allowed to leave the country, as protests against the military junta continued yesterday.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since a February 1 coup ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and derailed the country’s experiment with democracy.
Business consultants Matthew O’Kane and Christa Avery, a dual Canadian-Australian citizen, tried to leave the country on a relief flight in late March but were barred from departing and placed under house arrest.
“I am of course incredibly relieved to have been released and to be on my way home with my husband Matt,” Avery said in a statement.
“Even though I knew that I had done nothing wrong it was very stressful being held under house arrest for two weeks, not knowing what was going to be the outcome of the questioning.”
The couple said they were incredibly sad to leave Myanmar, which was their home for eight years, and hope the country stabilises soon.
Canberra’s and Ottawa’s foreign affairs departments said they had provided support to the couple.
The couple ran a bespoke consultancy business in Yangon.
A third Australian, economist Sean Turnell, was arrested a week after the putsch and remains in custody.
The university professor and Adviser to Ms Suu Kyi was the first foreign national arrested following the coup.
He has been charged with a violation of state secret laws, along with Suu Kyi late last month.
Ceasefire suspended as violence continues
Ten of Myanmar’s major ethnic armed groups voiced support for the anti-coup movement over the weekend, stoking concerns that their involvement could ignite a broader conflict.
Following the groups’ online meeting, Restoration Council of Shan State chair General Yawd Serk told AFP the 2015 nationwide ceasefire agreement effectively stopped when the military staged the coup.
“The peace process has been violated by the military. This is not a good thing. What we are saying is that at the moment, the military’s hands are bloodstained,” he told AFP on Monday.
“We are not saying the national ceasefire agreement is broken – it is suspended.”
Elsewhere, two Myanmar soldiers were killed in a bomb explosion in Tamu near the Myanmar-Indian border during a clash between security forces and protesters Sunday.
“It was like a war as they attacked each other in the town. We could hear them shooting each other. We even could hear bomb attacks too sometimes. We could hear a lot of guns fighting. No one dared to go out as they were fighting,” a women’s rights activist told AFP.
– with AFP