Junta troops killed at least 56 women in Myanmar during the three months ending September, according to the Burma Women’s Union, or BWU, amid a scorched earth offensive that has left the country’s most vulnerable victims of the military’s worst atrocities.
Of those killed between July 1 and Sept. 28, 30 died by artillery strikes, six by air strikes, 13 were shot dead, one died in custody, three were burned alive, one was raped and killed, and two were beaten to death, the BWU said in a report, citing information compiled by Thailand’s Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (Burma).
BWU Joint General Secretary Wai Wai told RFA Burmese that her organization is working to ensure that the junta is held accountable for these and other killings carried out in the aftermath of its Feb. 1, 2021 coup d’etat.
“For the women who died because of these inhuman acts committed by the terrorist army, the Burma Women’s Union will cooperate with all relevant organizations that are trying to bring justice to the victims, those who lost their family members and survivors,” she said.
Wai Wai said the death toll in the BWU’s report may be incomplete and could be much higher.
In one incident, in Sagaing region’s Wetlet township, on Aug. 27, junta troops raided Kyee Kan (North) village and killed four civilians, including a 20-year-old woman named Shwe Mann Thu, residents said.
The young woman was arrested and killed after being sexually assaulted, said a person close to her family who, like others interviewed for this report, spoke on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
“When her body was found, she was naked, and a … container was inserted into her vagina,” the person said. “We saw signs of rape … and her throat was slashed.”
In another incident, on Aug. 3, a 43-year-old woman displaced by fighting in Kayah state’s Demoso township stepped on a military landmine and bled to death, according to Banyar, the director of the Karenni National Human Rights Group.
“The junta troops have planted many mines here,” he said. “Most people don’t die if they step on … mines but are wounded or lose their legs … [others] bleed to death.”
Banyar said that no one should have to fear stepping on a landmine in a civilian area where no members of the armed resistance are present.
Most vulnerable at risk
Naw Susanna Hla Hla Soe, the minister of women, youths, and children’s affairs for Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government, or NUG, told RFA that women and children have been subjected to the worst violence by junta troops since the coup.
“Currently, more than 2 million people have fled their homes due to the junta’s crackdown and more than half of them are women and children,” she said. “These incidents are because of the junta, which is targeting the people as if they were enemies and then committing crimes.”
She vowed that the junta’s crimes against women and children will be thoroughly documented and sent for review to international bodies of justice.
Attempts by RFA to contact junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun for comments regarding the claims by the BWU went unanswered Monday, however, junta chief Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing has said that his soldiers “do not harm civilians.”
According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, over 600 women are among the more than 4,000 people killed by the junta troops since the coup.
Hundreds of civilians killed
The BWU’s investigation into the junta’s killing of women came as another watchdog, the Pyinsama Mandai Civil Surveillance Group, or PMCSG, said that at least 473 civilians were killed in violence in the regions of Sagaing, Magway, Yangon, and Chin state, alone in the four months ending in August.
Among those killed were 435 men and 38 women, as well as 29 boys and two girls under the age of 18, the group said in a report released Monday.
At least 11 massacres – defined as the killing of 10 or more civilians at once – took place between May and the end of August, PMCSG said. Six occurred in Sagaing and five in Chin state, it said.
When compiling records of human rights violations and crimes in the four regions and states, PMCSG said that 405 attacks were committed by the junta, 80 by anti-Junta People’s Defense Force paramilitary groups, and 44 by unidentified armed groups.
Of the 405 attacks by the junta, 344 targeted civilians and 61 targeted armed groups, it said. At least 205 incidents were classified as war crimes, 112 as human rights violations, and 27 as regular crimes.
PMCSG said it had compiled data for its report based on “information on the ground,” as well as from trusted news outlets, and interviews with families of the victims.
Junta representatives were unavailable for comment on the PMCSG’s findings.