Bangkok, Mar 1 (EFE).- Myanmar soldiers have released 80 kids they took hostage over the weekend during an anti-insurgency operation in the western Sagaing region, local media reported on Tuesday.
The children, all under 12 and some even below 5, were attending kindergarten in the Chin Pone village when the military launched the attack on Saturday.
Teachers evacuated the kids to the basement of a nearby monastery, where they were held hostage by the junta troops.
According to the Democratic Voice of Burma news portal, the soldiers have withdrawn from Chin Pone.
“At least 21 dead bodies, including 19 men and two women, were alleged to have been found in Chin Pone — where troops had taken 80 young children hostage. Now released,” the portal said in a tweet.
An unknown number of people remain missing, the outlet said.
“Three people were arrested during the attack. Troops are reported to have carried out further shootings and arson attacks on nearby villages after leaving Chin Pone village. Inhabitants of nearby Thapye Aye village are said to have fled after soldiers burned down homes.”
A statement from the opposition National Unity Government (NUG) confirmed Monday that the soldiers had taken children hostages.
The military had threatened to “burn the village down unless the locals (who) fled violence return,” said the statement from the parallel administration of deposed legislators and ruling party members loyal to jailed leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
“Given the junta’s escalating acts of terror and atrocity crimes against civilians, the NUG holds well-founded fears that returning villagers would be killed, disappeared, tortured or arbitrarily detained,” the statement said, expressing “grave fears for safety of the captive children.”
The military justified the assault as an operation against a group of insurgents from Chin Pone.
The opposition administration, formed after the military toppled an elected government in a coup on Feb.1 last year, recalled that Myanmar was a signatory to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols.
The coup has plunged Myanmar into a deep political, economic and social crisis in which more than 1,580 people have died due to military repression, activists say.
The military justifies its coup alleging fraud in the now-annulled November 2020 elections, in which Suu Kyi’s party won a landslide.
International observers have described the polls as legitimate. EFE