Outrage spreads on social media over alleged massacre of people rounded up by government troops in Sagaing region
Myanmar soldiers rounded up and killed 11 people in a village, shooting and then setting them on fire, according to people in the area and local media reports.
Photos and a video purporting to show charred corpses in Don Taw village in the Sagaing region of Myanmar’s north-west circulated on Tuesday while outrage spread on social media.
The footage was said to have been taken shortly after the men were shot and burned, with some of the victims reportedly still alive when set alight. The area has seen fierce fighting between the junta’s forces and militia set up by opponents of military rule since the 1 February coup.
Stephane Dujarric, a UN spokesman, expressed deep concern at the reports “of the horrific killing of 11 people” and strongly condemned such violence, saying “credible reports indicate that five children were among those people killed”.
The material or claims over how the 11 died could not be independently verified. An account given to the Associated Press by a person who said he went to the scene generally matched descriptions of the incident carried by independent Myanmar media.
A volunteer aid worker in the area, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters by telephone that troops had entered Don Taw village early on Tuesday and the victims were killed at around 11am.
“The troops were just brutally killing anyone they could find,” the volunteer said, citing witness accounts. The volunteer has assisted people who have fled Don Taw and other nearby villages and said it was unclear if the victims were militia members or civilians.
Another witness who spoke to the AP corroborated this account, saying about 50 troops marched into Don Taw village at about 11am on Tuesday, seizing anyone who did not manage to flee.
“They arrested 11 innocent villagers,” said the witness, who described himself as a farmer and an activist, and asked to remain anonymous for his own safety.
He added that the captured men were not members of the locally organised People’s Defence Force, which sometimes engages the army in combat. He said the captives had their hands tied behind them and were set on fire.
Accounts in Myanmar media said the soldiers appeared to have acted in retaliation for an attack earlier that morning by People’s Defence Force members.
Other witnesses cited in Myanmar media said the victims were members of a defence force, though the witness who spoke to the AP described them as members of a less formally organised village protection group.
The alleged massacre in Don Taw was decried by Myanmar’s underground National Unity Government, which has established itself as the opposition to the military-installed government.
“On the 7th of December in Sagaing region, sickening scenes reminiscent of the Islamic State terrorist group bore witness to the military’s escalation of their acts of terror,” said the organisation’s spokesperson, who uses the name Dr Sasa.
“The sheer brutality, savagery, and cruelty of these acts shows a new depth of depravity, and proves that, despite the pretence of the relative detente seen over the last few months, the junta never had any intention of de-escalating their campaign of violence.”
The junta has not commented on the allegations, which if confirmed would represent the latest atrocity in an increasingly bitter struggle since the military’s seizure of power in February and ousting of the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The allegations follow Monday’s conviction of Aung San Suu Kyi on charges of incitement and violating coronavirus restrictions and sentencing to four years in prison, which was quickly cut in half. The court’s action was widely criticised as a further effort by the country’s military rulers to roll back the democratic gains of recent years.