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Horror of Horrors

The organized killings have few parallels in Myanmar’s torturous history with the 30-odd victims being herded up before being shot by the ever so obedient soldiers of the repressive junta.

Statesman News Service | Kolkata |

There is cruel irony in the Indian foreign secretary’s appeal for democracy in Myanmar last weekend being followed almost immediately by the killing of more than 30 people, including women and children, in the country’s Kayah state on Saturday.

Horror of horrors, their bodies were set on fire by the troops, now effectively at the helm of the country’s administration. The photos of the aftermath of the Christmas Eve massacre in eastern Mo So village, just outside Hpruso township in Kayah state, where refugees were sheltering from an army offensive, spread on social media in the country, fuelling outrage against the military. The visuals showed the charred bodies of over 30 people in three burned-out vehicles. It is fairly obvious that the massacre was driven by calculated malevolence on the part of the military.

A villager who went to the scene said the victims had last Friday fled the fighting between armed resistance groups and Myanmar’s army near Koi Ngan village, which is just beside Mo So. He said they were killed after they were arrested by troops while heading to refugee camps in the western part of the township. The international aid group Save the Children said two of its staff members, who were traveling home after doing humanitarian work in a nearby community, were caught up in the incident and remain missing.

The group said it had confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned. “We are horrified at the violence carried out against innocent civilians and our staff, who are dedicated humanitarians, supporting millions of children in need across Myanmar. Investigations into the nature of the incident are continuing but attacks against aid workers cannot be tolerated,” Inger Ashing, CEO of Save the Children International, said in a statement.

The organized killings have few parallels in Myanmar’s torturous history with the 30-odd victims being herded up before being shot by the ever so obedient soldiers of the repressive junta. The government has not commented on the allegations, but a report in the state-run Myanmar Alinn daily newspaper said on Saturday that the fighting near Mo So broke out on Friday when members of ethnic guerrilla forces, known as the Karenni National Progressive Party, and those opposed to the military, drove in “suspicious” vehicles and attacked security forces after refusing to stop.

In sharp contrast, a witness who spoke on condition of anonymity said, “the bodies were tied with ropes before being set on fire.” The witness said the villagers and anti-government militia groups left the bodies as military troops arrived near Mo So while the bodies were being prepared for cremation. The fighting was still intense near the village. The nub of the matter must be that Myanmar might be smouldering for some time yet. It bears witness to the deepest tragedy in what is normally the season of good cheer.