According to media sources, a rebel organisation and a shadow government statement, Myanmar military held a group of civilians, including at least 80 children, prisoner for two days before releasing the majority of them on Monday.
The news: The incident took place in Myanmar’s Sagaing area, which has seen heavy fighting between armed groups opposing the military takeover.
- According to media sources, military air strikes and raids in Yinmabin, a township approximately 120 kilometres (75 miles) west of Mandalay, drove out most locals, but scores of children and teachers were stranded at a monastery that also served as a school.
- Residents in the neighbourhood told the Irrawaddy newspaper on Sunday that 85 children and ten teachers had been kidnapped.
- The stories could not be independently verified and a junta spokeswoman did not reply to requests for comment.
- As per the National Unity Government (NUG), a shadow government formed by opponents of last year’s coup, some of the youngsters detained were under the age of 12 and others were under the age of five, accusing the army of a “grave violation” of international law.
- When the forces retreated on Monday morning, most of the children were released, but several adults were arrested, according to a member of the area’s People’s Defence Force.
What’s going on: “We could not fight the troops as they were holding the children,” claimed a militia member who did not want to be identified.
- The NUG and the People’s Defense Forces have been labelled “terrorist” groups by the junta.
- The military has been accused of using civilians as human shields and capturing schools and monasteries to use as bases in the past.
- Human Rights Watch’s deputy Asia director, Phil Robertson, said similar incidents demonstrated the military’s “total impunity.”
- According to a Thai-based activists group, more than 1,500 people have been slain in a crackdown by Myanmar’s security forces since a coup deposed Aung San Suu Kyi’s government in February.
- The military, which disputes the death toll, is also fighting armed pro-democracy organisations in the countryside and ethnic minority forces on various fronts.