Myanmar’s military junta has killed nearly 500 children since seizing power more than two and a half years ago, according to the country’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG).
At an online press conference on Wednesday, the NUG detailed the impact of regime offensives on children, including those who have died in schools and clinics targeted by the military.
“Attacking schools with children is tantamount to targeting children themselves, and being killed is a danger that children can face just like adults,” the NUG’s human rights minister, Aung Myo Min, said at the conference.
There have been 491 documented cases of children being killed by the military since it mounted a coup against Myanmar’s elected civilian government in February 2021, the NUG claimed.
While some have been victims of airstrikes or artillery shelling, many others have died due to army raids on villages or the accidental explosion of mines and other ordnance left behind in conflict areas.
Most striking, however, have been the regime’s apparently deliberate attacks on public buildings where children and other civilians are likely to be found.
According to Aung Myo Min, the junta has destroyed a total of 119 schools and 391 clinics in a bid to eliminate resistance to its rule.
Such attacks have only increased over the past year as it fails to achieve this goal, he added.
“The junta forces have stepped up their use of heavy weapons in attacks and airstrikes as they become less capable of ground attacks. The underlying intent behind their crimes is not merely warfare—it is the deliberate destruction of the entire civilian community in the area,” he said.
Citing data collected since September 2021, the NUG said that the regime has fired 2,351 rounds of heavy artillery at civilian targets, including schools, religious buildings, and healthcare facilities.
In an effort to protect children, the NUG said it has built bomb shelters at each of the roughly 500 schools that it operates in resistance-controlled territory. It has also forbidden forces under its command from stationing themselves in schools, according to NUG cabinet member Dr Zaw Wai Soe.
In addition to Aung Myo Min and Dr Zaw Wai Soe, the press conference was also attended by teachers from NUG-run schools.
One of the teachers pointed to an incident that occurred just last week in Sagaing Region’s Wuntho Township as a typical example of the danger facing children living in resistance strongholds.
On September 27, three shells fired from a howitzer cannon capable of shooting 155mm rounds landed inside a Buddhist monastery in the village of Gyoe Taung, injuring a female teacher and 18 children, the teacher in charge of the school said.
“Children were running around, drenched in blood. The commotion was like a scene from hell. The sight of the blood-smeared children is still etched in my mind,” said the teacher.
“The teachers and the parents still remain shaken, and every night, we wake up and sit in silence.”
In April, a junta airstrike targeting a gathering held to celebrate the opening of an NUG administration centre in the village of Pa Zi Gyi in Sagaing’s Kanbalu Township killed around 160 people, including 32 children.
A similar incident in September of last year left 13 people—almost half of them children—dead at a school in Letyetkone, a village in Sagaing’s Depayin Township.