Toddler and 5-year-old among 7 killed by junta artillery near Thai border

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Toddler and 5-year-old are among seven killed by the military junta’s artillery in Karen State’s Hpapun District on Saturday (KSPN)

‘The fact that they fired a heavy artillery shell right in the middle of the village makes it apparent that they were slaying civilians purposefully,’ a human rights activist said

By Myanmar Now

Seven people, including a toddler, a five-year-old, two teenagers and a pregnant woman, were killed by junta artillery fire near the Thai border in Karen State’s Hpapun district on Saturday, a local human rights group has said.

Two-year-old Naw Ta Lu and five-year-old Naw Htoo Paw were the youngest of those killed in Butho Township’s Klaw Day village when soldiers fired shells from a nearby hill, said Saw Lay Kapaw, assistant director of the Karen Peace Support Network (KPSN).

Other victims included Naw Tin Ne La Win, 14, and Saw Day Poe, 19. The remaining three who died were aged between 22 and 40. Four other villagers were injured.

The soldiers were from Infantry Battalions 406 and 407, as well as from the Border Guard Force, Saw Lay Kapaw said.

“The villagers were resting in their homes when they fired the artillery shells,” he added. “It was all too sudden, so the villagers did not even get a chance to flee the village.”

The injured people were sent to a clinic under the healthcare department of the Karen Nation Union (KNU), whose Brigade 5 controls the territory where the shelling happened.

The military also fired shells at another village on the western part of the Hpapun-Kamamaung road on Sunday, Saw Lay Kapaw added.

“The fact that they fired a heavy artillery shell right in the middle of the village makes it apparent that they were slaying civilians purposefully. This is not something that is happening only in Karen State. It’s something that is happening all over the country,” he said.

The soldiers chose to fire the shells at 7:20pm because they knew villagers would be home then, the KPSN said in a statement. “This is a war crime and a crime against humanity,” the statement said.

The KPSN called for increased pressure to prevent countries from supplying arms to the Myanmar military, and named Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Belarus, India and Singapore as among those that have done so.

And it called for sanctions to prevent the sale of aviation fuel that can be used by the military to launch airstrikes against civilians

Hpapun has witnessed intense fighting between the KNU and the junta’s forces since last year’s military coup, which the rebel group has vehemently opposed.

Last month the KNU’s Brigade 5 clashed with the junta’s forces over 300 times, killing 136 of them and injuring 104 others, the KNU said, adding that 11 of its own soldiers died and 26 were injured over the same period.

Four civilians were killed and 20 injured in last month’s fighting, during which the military fired over 300 artillery shells and carried out 10 airstrikes, the KNU added.

Original Post: Myanmar Now