Among the dead are a teenage rape victim and two infants, the Institute of Chin Affairs said.
People pray during the burial of a boy who was killed after accidentally handling an explosive device in Chin state, May 20, 2021.
Troops loyal to Myanmar’s junta have killed more than 80 ethnic Chins in the country since the military took power in a Feb. 1 coup, including two infants and a 15-year-old rape victim, a Chin watchdog group said Tuesday.
The military killed at least 51 ethnic Chin in Chin state, two in Kachin state, 23 in Sagaing region, one in Mandalay, one in Yangon, and three in Magwe region, according to a statement issued by the Institute of Chin Affairs (ICA)—an entity formed by several Chin civil society organizations together with activists from the pro-democracy 88 Generation Students group in Sweden.
Among the 81 victims were five women and 10 children, ICA added, noting that its sample included data on deaths up to July 3.
All the deaths occurred while troops responded violently to peaceful demonstrations against the junta takeover or conducted military operations as part of an offensive against People’s Defense Force (PDF) militias in rural villages, the group said. Some of the victims also died as the result of indiscriminate bombing and air attacks, it said.
“The ICA is gravely concerned about the high numbers of ethnic Chin civilians being killed by [junta] forces, particularly noting the Chin people are relatively less in population as compared to other ethnic groups in Myanmar,” the statement said.
“Therefore, the ICA urges the [junta] to immediately stop killing innocent people, particularly women and children, and to refrain from indiscriminate bombings and heavy explosive weapons against the civilian population.”
The ICA also called for “increased unity among the resistance organizations” and “international action” to be taken against the military regime.
According to the ICA, the death toll included a 15-year-old girl in Sagaing’s Kalay townhip named Mary Magdalene who was raped by a soldier on May 1, as well as six-day-old and one-month-old infants who died in May and June during fighting between the military and the PDF.
Others included an 18-year-old named Do Swin Kim who was shot in the head while taking part in an anti-coup demonstration in Kalay on March 17, and two men from Chin state’s Hakha township named Cam Mwe and Tel Lein, who were tortured to death on May 9 after being accused of having ties with the Chin Defense Force (CDF) militia.
A CDF representative recently told RFA’s Myanmar Service that three of the group’s fighters were killed in fighting in Chin state’s Mindat township on July 21, while the son of a health worker in the township was shot dead by troops the following day, bringing the total number of Chin dead since the coup to at least 85.
Ethnic group targeted
Myanmar’s military seized power on Feb. 1 in a coup d’état, arresting former State Counselor Aung San Suu Kyi and other top members of the deposed National League for Democracy (NLD) leadership for allegedly rigging the country’s November 2020 general election.
The junta has provided no evidence to back up its claims of voter fraud and has violently responded to widespread protests, killing 934 people and arresting 5,382, according to the Bangkok-based Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Amid nationwide turmoil, the military has stepped up offensives in remote parts of the country of 54 million that have led to fierce battles with several local militias.
The CDF is a network of volunteers that formed in April to protect the people of Chin and has enjoyed relative success facing the military—the second largest in Southeast Asia—with slingshots and the same crude flintlock “Tumee” rifles their forefathers used to fight off British colonizers in the 1880s. The CDF said it had killed some 100 junta troops between March and May.
Fighters of the CDF were engaged in daily battles from May 12 until May 15, when the junta occupied Mindat with 1,000 fully armed troops who used civilians as human shields and sprayed gunfire indiscriminately, the CHRO said recently.
The CDF pulled out May 16 to protect civilians from further artillery attacks and fire from helicopter gunships, Chin fighters have said, but fighting resumed on June 3 and both sides have suffered casualties.
The Chin Human Rights Organization (CHRO) estimates that some 40,000 civilians have fled their homes throughout Chin state since May.
Last month, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned that any escalation in violence in Myanmar must be halted to prevent even greater loss of life and a deepening humanitarian emergency, specifically referring to “areas with significant ethnic and religious minority groups.”
According to the ICA, most of the ethnic Chin killed by the junta since February were in their 20s and many were under the age of 18.
A resident of Chin state’s Tedim township, where a 10-year-old boy documented by the ICA was killed by a roadside explosion on May 18, told RFA that the deaths of Chin youths are particularly difficult to endure.
“They should be going to school at this age—some might have got college degrees, while others would have found good jobs,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity, citing fear of reprisal.
“If the military hadn’t seized power, our country would have been able to live in peace. Our young people increasingly have the chance to access a good education. But now, many youths are dead as a result of the coup.”
Reported by RFA’s Myanmar Service. Translated by Khin Maung Nyane. Written in English by Joshua Lipes.