Conflicts & War

Amnesty accuses Myanmar military of fresh ‘war crimes’ to punish civilians

Bangkok, June 1 (EFE).- The Myanmar military junta has subjected the civilian population in two eastern states to collective punishment with air and ground attacks, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing more than 150,000, global rights watchdog Amnesty International said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report, “Bullets rained from the sky: War crimes and displacement in eastern Myanmar,” has found that the military atrocities and arbitrary detentions of Karen and Karenni civilians “often result in torture or extrajudicial executions, and the systematic looting and burning of villages.”

“The violence in Kayin and Kayah states reignited in the wake of last year’s military coup and escalated from December 2021 to March 2022, killing hundreds of civilians and displacing more than 150,000 people,” the rights group said.

Rawya Rageh, a senior crisis adviser at Amnesty International, rued that the world’s attention might have moved away from Myanmar since last year’s coup, “but civilians continue to pay a high price.”

“The military’s ongoing assault on civilians in eastern Myanmar has been widespread and systematic, likely amounting to crimes against humanity,” Rageh said.

The Myanmar military, whose reputation for cruelty predates the Feb.1, 2021 coup, has carried out indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas using combat planes, helicopters, artillery, and mortars.

Several of these attacks targeted civilian populations, destroying houses, schools, health centers, religious buildings, and camps for internally displaced persons, witnesses told Amnesty.

Myanmar has plunged into a deep political and socio-economic crisis since the military coup that has unleashed a spiral of violence with the emergence of new civilian militia groups, exacerbating the guerrilla war that the country has been experiencing since its independence.

Armed ethnic groups such as the Karen National Liberation Army and the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force have been active in Kayin and Kayah for decades.

The militia group is supporting the People’s Defense Force, formed by former civilian politicians.

“Alarm bells should be ringing: the ongoing killing, looting and burning bear all the hallmarks of the military’s signature tactic of collective punishment, which it has repeatedly used against ethnic minorities across the country,” Rageh said.

The looting and burning of towns documented by the nonprofit in the east coincide with the pattern of alleged robberies by the military in the Rakhine (Arakan) state, the stronghold of the rebel Arakan Army, a pro-Rakhine ethnic armed group, which came into force a few months before the military seized power in Naypyitaw.

For more than a year, the western Rakhine state had avoided the violence that engulfed the rest of Myanmar since the military took over.

The quiet owes in part to an informal ceasefire, which ended two years of fighting between the military and the Arakan Army.

But now, the junta has, in some instances, sought to scare both Rakhine and Rohingya communities away from working with Arakan Army mechanisms and institutions, said a report by the International Crisis Group.

“Recently, it has adopted more aggressive tactics, setting up roadblocks and searching vehicles, reinforcing troops, increasing patrols and detaining people it suspects of supporting the group,” the group said. EFE


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