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Myanmar military attack aid workers on Christmas Eve

29 December 2021


Refugees, who fled a flare-up in fighting between the Myanmar army and ethnic-minority rebels earlier this month, prepare as they return voluntarily across the border to Myanmar, at a pier in Mae Sot district, Tak province, Thailand, on 19 December. Many refugees are in effect trapped in this border area

Refugees, who fled a flare-up in fighting between the Myanmar army and ethnic-minority rebels earlier this month, prepare as they return volunta...

TWO aid workers were among the at least 35 people massacred in an attack by Myanmar’s military on Christmas Eve.

The chief executive of Save the Children in the UK, Gwen Hines, confirmed on Tuesday that two members of staff were among the dead.

The two men — whose names have not been released, owing to security concerns — were caught up in the attack after they travelled back to their office, having taken part in a humanitarian response elsewhere. One man was 32, and had a ten-month-old son; one was aged 28, and had a three-month-old daughter. Both had worked for the charity for years.

Ms Hines said that the charity was in a “state of grief for two beloved, irreplaceable colleagues”. Many women and young children are believed to be among the dead: reports are emerging that people were forced from their cars and tied up before they were killed and their bodies were burned.

She called on the UN Security Council to hold those responsible to account.

“Violence against innocent civilians, including aid workers, is intolerable, and this senseless attack is a breach of international humanitarian law. We are shaken by the violence carried out against 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. We are doing everything we can to ensure all our staff and the families of the victims get the support they need after of this devastating incident. This is not an isolated event. The people of Myanmar continue to be targeted with increasing violence, and these events demand an immediate response.”

The charity has suspended its operations in Kayah, Chin, and parts of the Magway and Kayin region after the attack.

The UN has called for a New Year ceasefire throughout Myanmar. Its special envoy to Myanmar, Noeleen Heyzer, said in a statement on Monday that the people there had suffered “tremendously”.

“Those inflicting suffering on its own people need to silence their guns and protect people in time of great need. The future of Myanmar’s children counts on this,” she said.

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of Yangon, Cardinal Charles Bo, also appealed to the military to stop the violence. He said in a statement on Sunday that the country was a “war zone”, and described the attack as an “unspeakable and despicable act of inhumane barbarity”.

“I call on the military to stop bombing, shelling, and killing. I call on the democracy movement and the ethnic armed groups to strive earnestly for peace. And I pray from the very depths of my heart for an end to the tragedies we have seen in recent days and weeks, and for too many years and decades,” he said in his Boxing Day statement.

He was praying, he said, for a new dawn for his country and for “the souls of those so brutally murdered”.

The UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said on Tuesday that there were “credible reports” that civilians were forced from vehicles, killed, and burned.

“I am horrified by reports of an attack against civilians. . . I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law,” he said in a statement.

Myanmar’s junta said that its troops had been attacked after they had attempted to stop seven cars driving in a “suspicious way”, a spokesman told the news agency AFP.

At least 1375 people in Myanmar have been killed, and more than 8000 have been imprisoned in crackdowns on protests and armed opposition since the military coup in February, according to a tally of the Association for Assistance of Political Prisoners.

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