Bangkok Desk, Dec 27 (EFE).- Myanmar’s military junta on Monday denied reports of attacks on civilians in Karen state, in the east of the country, which have forced people to flee across the border into Thailand.
In a joint statement, several embassies including those of the United States, Australia and the European Union, on Friday condemned the military’s attacks against civilians in Karen, also known as Kayin, including the shelling of villages.
Local NGOs and ethnic militias have denounced the use of heavy artillery and the army’s bombardment of villages, while thousands of people have been displaced and many have fled across the border into Thailand.
The Myanmar junta’s foreign affairs ministry on Monday said that the “unverifiable” information comes from “anti-government elements, terrorists and insurgent groups,” according to a notice in the official newspaper, Global New Light of Myanmar.
The response of the military junta to the joint statement comes in the wake of more violence against civilians allegedly carried out by security forces in neighboring Kayah state.
The United Nations’ Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths on Sunday condemned a massacre on Dec. 24 near the village of Moso in Kayah.
“Credible reports say at least 35 people, including at least one child, were forced from their vehicles, killed and burned,” Griffiths said.
“Two humanitarian workers of Save the Children remain missing, having been caught up in the violence.”
Save the Children reported Saturday that its two workers were missing, adding that “we have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned out. The military reportedly forced people from their cars, arrested some, killed others and burned their bodies.”
Griffiths condemned the “grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” and urged authorities to “immediately commence a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident so that perpetrators can be swiftly brought to justice. ”
He also called on the “Myanmar Armed Forces and all armed groups in Myanmar to take all measures to protect civilians from harm.”
State media said the military killed an unspecified number of “terrorists with weapons” from opposition armed forces who were traveling in vehicles and who had no intention of stopping at the request of officers.
The Karenni National Defense Force civilian militia group, which operates in the region, stressed that the victims were civilians seeking refuge, and not part of its ranks, Myanmar Now reported.
Myanmar has been plunged into crisis and violence since the military led by Min Aung Hlaing took power in a coup on Feb. 1.
In addition to peaceful protests and a civil disobedience movement, civilian militias have taken up arms alongside ethnic guerrillas that have been in conflict with the military for decades.
After 10 months since the coup, the military junta still does not have the support of the majority of the country despite the violence unleashed against dissent, which has caused at least 1,375 deaths to date, according to an organization of Burmese activists. EFE nc/tw