Child survivors of Letyetkone massacre forced to read scripted ‘testimonies’

Two children detained by Myanmar’s junta since their school was attacked by the military last month were forced to read out an official account of the incident before they were released on Sunday, according to the National Unity Government (NUG).

The two 15-year-old survivors of the deadly air raid on the village of Letyetkone in Sagaing Region’s Depayin Township were made to offer their scripted “testimonies” on camera for propaganda purposes, said NUG press officer Nay Phone Latt.

“Before they released the kids, they filmed them reading what was written on those papers, forcing them to falsely testify about what happened,” he told Myanmar Now.

The pre-written statements, copies of which the NUG obtained as part of its investigation into the incident, make no mention of the aerial assault, but claim that the village was occupied by armed members of the NUG’s People’s Defence Force (PDF).

According to the regime’s version of events, soldiers sent to carry out “clearance operations” in the area clashed with the PDF fighters, who had allegedly taken over the village’s monastery and clinic.

After completing their mission, the junta troops attended to wounded civilians caught in the crossfire, providing medical care and airlifting the most badly injured to hospital in helicopters, the statement claimed. 

According to witness testimony received by Myanmar Now soon after the September 16 attack, regime forces in helicopters fired on the school indiscriminately, killing at least 13 civilians, including seven children.

“Detaining children traumatised by witnessing such inhumane killings, and then forcing them to falsely testify like this, only adds to their pain,” said Nay Phone Latt.

Soon after the incident, the military issued a statement claiming that the air raid targeted “terrorists” who were extorting money from local civilians and using them as human shields.

At a press conference held on September 20, the junta’s spokesperson, Gen. Zaw Min Tun, repeated these claims and released recorded statements from two people, including a teenaged girl, that were identical to those read by the two children who were released on Sunday. 

Copies of the written statements read by two Letyetkone children released from junta custody on October 23 (Nay Phone Latt) 

A resident of Letyetkone who spoke to Myanmar Now about the regime’s account said that it was “full of lies”.

“There were no PDF members in the village. We had set up a school in the monastery with the permission of the abbot, and we had no intention of fighting, nor did we have any weapons,” he said.

A total of 12 people were held in junta custody after the raid, of whom two have yet to be released as they are still receiving treatment for their injuries, according to a source close to the victims.

The source said that seven people—four children and three teachers—were released on Sunday.

“The children are not fully healed yet. They still suffer from injuries sustained in the airstrike, and they’re still in shock,” the source said.

A resident of Letyetkone said that the school remains closed and that many of the children who studied there appear to have been deeply traumatised by the experience. 

Related Articles

Back to top button