Tragic Toll: Over 500 Children’s Lives Lost in 2 Years Since Military Coup

Myanmar Spring Chronicle – October 05

MoeMaKa, October 06, 2023

Tragic Toll: Over 500 Children’s Lives Lost in 2 Years Since Military Coup

The National Unity Government has revealed a harrowing statistic: more than 500 children have tragically lost their lives due to ground fire, airstrikes, and large-scale weapon explosions in the slightly over two years since the military council seized control of Myanmar. The NUG has urgently called upon the international community to address these horrifying war crimes. The onset of the military coup was marked by civilian protests, with people taking to the streets to voice their dissent. In the time since, the military council’s security forces, including security police, guards, and soldiers, have not hesitated to conduct house-to-house searches and employ live ammunition against protesters in neighborhoods and homes.

Two particularly heart-wrenching incidents stand out. In the early days of the coup, two innocent children lost their lives when the military council’s security forces fired upon residences. These tragic events took place in Mandalay and Yangon and garnered media attention from the coup’s outset. As armed resistance movements grew in scale, numerous children became casualties of the military council’s aerial attacks on villages and areas under ethnic armed control, as well as ground offensives.

Among the notable incidents is the aerial assault on a school in Let Yet Kone Village, Depayin Township, and an attack on the inauguration of the PaKaFa office in Pazigyi Village. In a recent occurrence, an explosion at a school in a Wuntho Township village left 21 children injured, although there were no reported fatalities. The military council has never acknowledged that minors and children have lost their lives at the hands of their troops, and there have been numerous cases of children and family members being abducted in politically-related arrests, sometimes in the presence of their parents.

In the course of over two years, the People’s Defense Forces (PDF) have arrested and executed individuals suspected of being informants or linked to Pyu Saw Htee in various regions. Regrettably, children and their families have suffered losses due to these actions, according to reports. While it remains uncertain whether these incidents are part of the nearly 500 cases reported, it is plausible that a significant number may be unaccounted for.

It remains unclear whether the United Nations or an international court, such as the International Criminal Court (ICC), can take action against the military council for the deaths of children at the hands of their security forces during armed conflicts or in urban settings.

In ongoing armed resistance efforts, it is imperative that armed groups refrain from occupying schools, religious institutions such as monasteries often used for community gatherings and educational purposes, and Christian churches. The military council’s forces are frequently observed taking up positions in schools, religious structures, and campuses. It is a widely recognized fact that the military council’s security forces fail to adhere to international regulations. Complying with international rules is not only a matter of ensuring civilians’ safety but also upholding their organization’s reputation.

In another noteworthy development, Dr. Zaw Wai Soe, the Minister of Education and Health of the NUG, has reported that more than 130,000 education staff members continue to participate in the Civil Disobedience Movement (CDM). The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Education have witnessed the highest participation rates among public employees engaged in CDM activities against the military coup. According to data released by the NUG government, roughly 250,000 education staff members have taken part in CDM activities. As of now, over 130,000 education staff members remain active participants in the CDM, as stated by Minister Dr. Zaw Wai Soe.

It remains unclear how many of the 130,000 educators have opted not to return to work and how many are simultaneously participating in interim education efforts. No discussions have taken place regarding the professional employment status and allowances for these 130,000 staff members who continue to engage in the CDM.

Several months following the coup, the military council made attempts to reopen primary schools. However, due to the worsening COVID-19 situation, schools were subsequently closed again and later reopened once the pandemic’s effects had subsided. Nevertheless, there remains a shortage of teachers in many schools, with numerous towns and villages lacking the necessary safe conditions for educational activities. For over two years since the coup, students have resorted to various forms of remote learning as the educational landscape has transformed significantly.