- Human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday called for an investigation into possible war crimes committed by the Burmese military.
- Among Naypyidaw’s alleged atrocities are indiscriminate killings and the airdrop of internationally banned cluster munitions.
- Burma has been ruled by a military junta since the successful overthrow of elected State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021.
Human rights group Amnesty International on Thursday accused Burma’s military of indiscriminate killings, detaining civilians and using air-dropped cluster munitions in response to an insurgency in the northeast and west, and called for a war crimes investigation.
Fighting has raged in northern Shan state since the Arakan Army, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army and the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, which calls itself the Three Brotherhood Alliance, launched a coordinated offensive on October 27. Just over two weeks later, the Arakan army also attacked outposts in his home state of Rakhine in the west.
The attack by the well-trained and well-equipped ethnic militias has been seen as a major challenge for the military, which has struggled to contain a national uprising by members of the People’s Defense Forces, a pro-democracy armed group formed after the military took power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021.
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The alliance scored widespread victories, including the capture of four border points in northern Shan State. Immediately after the fighting began, the military government acknowledged that it had lost three cities and vowed counterattacks on the alliance.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, known as OCHA, said in its report on December 15 that 378 civilians have reportedly been killed and another 505 injured while more than 660,000 people have been displaced by the fighting that began in late October. According to OCHA estimates, more than 2.6 million people have been displaced nationally since the army took over nearly three years ago.
In its report, Amnesty International said it had documented a nighttime airstrike by the military in Namhkam township in Shan in early December, likely using internationally banned cluster munitions. Cluster munitions open in the air, releasing smaller “bombs” over a wide area.
One of the Three Brotherhood Alliance groups, the Ta’ang National Liberation Army also said in a statement on December 2 that army fighter jets dropped cluster munitions twice overnight on Namhkam township, killing one local resident and injuring five others and damaging more than 12 houses.
Amnesty International reported that civilians and civilian sites were attacked indiscriminately by the military in Rakhine’s Pauktau township. The report said the army’s attacks on civilians and the use of banned cluster munitions “should be investigated as war crimes”.
“Myanmar’s military has a bloody record of indiscriminate attacks with devastating consequences for civilians, and its brutal response to a major attack by armed groups fits a long-standing pattern,” said Matt Wells, Director of Amnesty International’s Crisis Response Programme. “Nearly three years after the coup, the suffering of civilians across Myanmar shows no signs of abating, even as the issue has largely fallen off the international agenda.”
Amnesty said it based its findings on interviews with 10 people from Pauktou and analyzes of photographs, video footage and satellite imagery.
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In a separate report released on Thursday, another monitoring group, Human Rights Watch, alleged that another faction in the Three Brothers Alliance, the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army, had kidnapped and forcibly recruited civilians fleeing the fighting in Shan .
The MNDAA, which is an armed group of the Kokang minority, is seeking to oust a rival faction from power by seizing the town of Laukkaing, which is the capital of the officially called Kokang Autonomous Zone in the northeast, near the border with China.
Two Laukkaing residents told the AP on Thursday that their colleagues were forcibly arrested by the MNDAA for recruitment while fleeing the fighting.
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The Associated Press reached out to MNDAA representatives for comment, but did not receive a response.