U.N. calls for investigation after reported massacre in Myanmar; 2 Save the Children workers among the dead


The United Nations called for an investigation following reports that at least 35 people, including a child, were killed in a massacre by Myanmars military on Christmas Eve. Two workers for Save the Children, a humanitarian organization, were among those killed, the London-based organization said Tuesday.

Photos of the charred remains of victims in torched vehicles circulated on social media in Myanmar, where activists say more than 1,300 people have died amid unrest since the military seized power on Feb. 1 and ousted the country's civilian leader, Aung San Suu Kyi.

"I condemn this grievous incident and all attacks against civilians throughout the country, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law," U.N. humanitarian affairs chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement Sunday.

He called for "a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident so that perpetrators can be swiftly brought to justice," at a time when "millions of people in Myanmar remain in dire need of humanitarian support."

The U.S. Embassy in Myanmar, in a statement Sunday, called the killings a "barbaric attack" and said it would "continue to press for accountability for the perpetrators of the ongoing campaign of violence against the people."

In Friday's attack, security forces reportedly rounded up civilians in Mo So, a village in the eastern state of Kayah, where people have been displaced by military offensives and clashes with armed groups.

A villager who visited the scene told the Associated Press that the occupants of three vehicles had been arrested, shot and burned in the vehicles. They had been en route to camps for internally displaced people in the western part of nearby Hpruso township, he said.

Save the Children said the military had attacked a car carrying two workers for the organization. They were initially reported missing.

"Two of our staff, who were on the way back to the office after conducting humanitarian response work in a nearby community, were caught up in the incident," the aid organization said in a statement Saturday. "We have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned out. The military reportedly forced people from their cars, arrested some, killed others and burned their bodies."

The aid agency, which placed an early death toll at 38, said it was "horrified at the violence carried out against innocent civilians and our staff." It said its own investigation was underway.

On Tuesday, the group confirmed the death of two staff members, age 32 and 28. Save the Children withheld their names for security reasons but said both had recently become fathers.

Save the Children has been working in Myanmar since 1995. It said Saturday that it had suspended its work in the area and in parts of nearby Magway and Kayin.

Myanmar's government has not commented on the allegations, the AP reported. But the country's state-run Myanma Alinn daily newspaper reported Saturday that the military torched seven cars in fighting with guerrilla forces in Mo So on Friday, according to the AP.

A Washington Post investigation published in December reported that Myanmar's military has carried out a premeditated campaign of arson and killing targeting civilians in western Chin state since September.

By analyzing more than 300 videos and photos, satellite imagery, eyewitness accounts and military planning documents, The Post found that the attacks were planned as early as June and that soldiers were given orders to "clear the region," similar to the military's 2017 operation against Rohingya Muslims.