Yangon: Myanmar's junta faced fresh international criticism over the deaths of more than 40 children and the "forced disappearance" of hundreds of people in its crackdown on pro-democracy protests. The military's ruthless suppression of demonstrations against its February 1 power grab has left 543 civilians dead, including 44 children, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring organisation.
Violence has ramped up in recent weeks, with Save the Children saying the death toll of youngsters had more than doubled in the past12 days. "We are shocked that children continue to be among the targets of these fatal attacks, despite repeated calls to protect children from harm," the charity said in a statement. "It is especially horrifying that several of these children were reportedly killed at home, where they should have been safe from harm."
The authorities have made numerous arrests during night raids on the homes of people suspected of supporting the rallies or the civil disobedience movement that has sprung up aimed at stopping the military from running the country. Human Rights Watch said the junta had "forcibly disappeared" hundreds of people, refusing to confirm their location or allow access to lawyers.
"The military junta's widespread use of arbitrary arrests and enforced disappearances appears designed to strike fear in the hearts of anti-coup protesters," said HRW's Asia director Brad Adams.
India condemns violence
For the second time, India last week condemned the violence, specifically any use of violence, in Myanmar as it called for restoration of democracy in the country. "Let me be very clear. We condemn any use of violence. We believe that the rule of law should prevail. We stand for the restoration of democracy in Myanmar," MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said while responding to media queries.
However, India's position remains nuanced with the government having also called for engagement with Myanmar and for the situation to be resolved peacefully through dialogue. While India was among eight countries to send a representative to the recent Myanmar Armed Forces Day parade, Bagchi said not too much should be read into it as India had a functioning embassy there with the ambassador and defence attache performing their duties. The defence attache had attended the parade.
"We have urged the release of political prisoners and supported any attempts at resolving the current situation, including through the efforts of Asean," Bagchi said.