Yangon (Agenzia Fides) - The violence in the Burmese states of Kayah and Kayin broke out again after the February 2021 coup, but it has further intensified from last December to March 2022, causing the death of hundreds of civilians and 150,000 displaced. Civilians pay the highest price with continued killing, looting and burning that have all the characteristics of "collective punishment" tactics. This is what the Amnesty International report states "Bullets rained from the sky": War crimes and displacement in eastern Myanmar, an investigation carried out by Amnesty in the two States Kayin and Kayah, in the eastern Burmese area, on the border with Thailand.
The "Tatmadaw", the army that responds to the military junta, subjected the civilians Karen and Karenni (present in those states) to "collective punishment through widespread air and ground attacks, arbitrary detentions that often lead to torture or extrajudicial executions and the systematic looting and burning of villages". More than a hundred witnesses from the border area told Amnesty reporters terrible stories that led the organization to claim that the Tatmadaw "systematically committed widespread atrocities, including the unlawful killing, arbitrary detention and forced displacement of civilians".
These actions are susceptible to being accused of "war crimes and probable crimes against humanity" due to the constant killings, looting and burning "which have all the characteristics of the typical tactics of collective punishment of the army", the Report states. Some attacks, it is explained, seem to have directly targeted civilians as alleged supporters of the armed groups or of the post-Coup uprising. In other cases, the army fired indiscriminately at civilian areas where there were also military targets. These attacks, according to Amnesty, violate international humanitarian law and constitute "war crimes". If the attacks against the civilian population must be "widespread or systematic" to constitute "crimes against humanity" - continues the document consulted by Agenzia Fides - in the states of Kayin and Kayah they are crimes such as murder, torture, forced
transfer and ethnic-based persecution.
In ongoing operations, the Myanmar army has repeatedly fired explosive weapons with wide-ranging effects on populated civilian areas. Dozens of witnesses told Amnesty International of shelling that lasted for days. The organization documented 24 artillery or mortar attacks between December 2021 and March 2022 that killed or injured civilians or caused the destruction of homes, schools, health facilities, churches and monasteries. Agenzia Fides has received first-hand testimonies of these reprisals against alleged militants, rebels against the military government, speaking about it with several priests and nuns in the state of Kayah, where there is a high percentage of Catholics and Christians. According to the report, the Myanmar military carried out arbitrary arrests of civilians based on their community or suspected of supporting the insurgency. Those detained were often tortured, forcibly disappeared or executed. According to witnesses, the Burmese military shot at civilians, including those trying to flee across a river on the Thai border. In addition, soldiers systematically looted and burned large sections of villages in Kayin and Kayah states, as satellite images released by Amnesty show. The organization also points out the danger that the war will not allow a fair distribution of humanitarian aid. The issue will be addressed by the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Noleen Heyzer, who is expected in the country shortly. (EG/PA) (Agenzia Fides, 2/6/2022)