Military Junta: Threat to Myanmar Children’s Life and Future

September 26th, 2022  •  Author:   Progressive Voice  •  9 minute read
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The targeting of civilians, including children, throughout the past 20 months since the attempted coup of 1 February 2021 is ingrained in the military junta’s tactics, as they continue their attempted subjugation of the people of Myanmar.

The Myanmar military’s heinous attacks on children continue to mount. Families are stricken with grief and the Myanmar people are reeling after junta forces targeted and killed children in many instances of violence against children in recent weeks. Junta forces shelled a temple housing 300 internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Moebye, southern Shan State and killed eleven in airstrikes on a monastic school in Let Yet Kone, Depayin Township, Sagaing Region. These killings are yet another tragic reminder that the international community’s approach to the Myanmar crisis and the military’s atrocities has completely and utterly failed.

At least 191, and as many as 350, children and youth 17 years and under have been killed since the attempted coup on 1 February 2021. Last week the number of children and youth killed rose sharply, as the Myanmar military escalated attacks on civilians. On 16 September, four people, including two girls aged 6 and 10, were callously killed by junta troops shelling of Mwe Taw Buddhist temple in Moebye, southern Shan State, where 300 IDPs were sheltered. The attack also triggered 3,000 people to flee the area. The spokesperson for the Karenni National Defence Force, Khu Re Du told the Irrawaddy that “They [Myanmar military] know civilians are hiding in churches, monasteries and pagodas but they continue to attack. It is shameful and they will pay for it.”

On the same day as the attack on Mwe Taw Temple, junta troops in two Mi-35 helicopters attacked a monastic school in Let Yet Kone, Depayin Township, Sagaing Region, brutally killing at least 11 children and three teachers, with 15 children missing and 14 students injured. The attack came without warning while the children attended classes. One 7 year old boy, Phone Tay Za, who lost a limb and died as a result of the airstrikes, asked his mother “Just kill me, as it hurts too much.”

Ground troops raided the village and took the dead bodies and severed body parts from the school, cremating them to hide their crimes. Reports of the troops taking people hostage have been posted online and in the news but much remains unknown, as sources are in hiding. In a statement in response to this attack, 71 schools in Myanmar called on the international community to bring about swift justice and accountability for this tragedy and all attacks on schools. While these barbaric acts by the junta occur far too frequently, international non-government organizations and UN agencies continue to lend legitimacy to the military junta by signing memorandums of understanding, presenting their credentials, or showing deference to the junta by engaging in meetings. All these actions breach humanitarian principles of impartiality, neutrality and ‘do no harm’, but also the UN’s Human Rights Upfront initiative. In response to the attack on the Let Yet Kone school, the UN Secretary-General issued a statement through his spokesperson, condemning the attack by the Myanmar military but stopping short of concrete steps to bring about a global response to the crisis in Myanmar.

Both Save the Children and United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) have issued statements on the airstrikes in Let Yet Kone, but failed to name the Myanmar military as perpetrators and adequately stress how dire the situation is for all children in Myanmar. The inaction of these groups, and the UN as a body, strengthens the junta’s resolve in continuing atrocity crimes. Save the Children and the Global Coalition to Protect Education from Attack were called out by the National Unity Government’s (NUG) Ministry of Women, Youths and Children earlier this month in a statement, after the two children’s rights groups conflated the human rights violations of the Myanmar military with ethnic revolutionary organizations and resistance groups. “It is extremely dangerous to put two starkly different degrees of violation in the same tone as though both parties committed the crime equally, and that could result in the international misinterpretation of the Myanmar people’s rejection of the junta and demand for federal democracy [sic]” the ministry stated.

The reality is that the Myanmar military has for decades and decades been the main perpetrator of violence against children in Myanmar – committing genocide against the Rohingya children; targeting children with airstrikes; perpetrating sexual and gender-based violence and torture against children; using children as human shields, forced labor and porters; using schools as military bases; and, point-blank shooting of children and planting landmines and unexploded ordnances, all with complete impunity. The targeting of civilians, including children, throughout the past 20 months since the attempted coup of 1 February 2021 is ingrained in the military junta’s tactics, as they continue their attempted subjugation of the people of Myanmar.

UNICEF has recently presented credentials to the military junta in June, which is not the legitimate government of Myanmar but a band of thugs that is violently attempting a coup. For UN agencies to profess to uphold human rights, the protection of children and the principle of ‘do no harm’, and to work with the junta is irreconcilable in the eyes of the people of Myanmar, however they massage the narrative. For the UN agencies to claim to be non-political or neutral is impossible, when the military junta is waging war against the very people UN agencies purport to protect. If UNICEF fully believed in the principles of neutrality and ‘do no harm’, they would present credentials to the legitimate government of the country, the NUG, and work with the Ministry of Women, Youth and Children to assist children on the ground. Additionally, they would seek alternative means to provide assistance to children through local civil society groups, local education providers working in tandem with the NUG and Ethnic Revolutionary Organizations (EROs), excluding the military junta. To partner with the military junta, does harm to civilians on the ground, lends legitimacy to the junta and emboldens them to commit further atrocities – the last 601 days are a testament to this fact.

The principled step UNICEF, Save the Children, UN entities and the international community must take, is to call out perpetrators by name and press for justice and accountability. They must stand for Myanmar children’s right to life and right to education. Most importantly, they must stop legitimizing the murderous junta, but instead work with the NUG and EROs and support the people of Myanmar in their struggle for a genuine federal democracy. For the UN and its member states, they must impose concrete measures to stop the illegal military junta’s atrocities and end their decades-long impunity by cutting legitimacy, funds, arms and jet fuel. A coordinated UN response, one that is led by the UN Secretary General, must be undertaken immediately to prevent more children from being harmed by this murderous junta.


[1] One year following the 1988 pro-democracy uprising, the former military junta changed the country’s name from Burma to Myanmar overnight. Progressive Voice uses the term ‘Myanmar’ in acknowledgement that most people of the country use this term. However, the deception of inclusiveness and the historical process of coercion by the former State Peace and Development Council military regime into usage of ‘Myanmar’ rather than ‘Burma’ without the consent of the people is recognized and not forgotten. Thus, under certain circumstances, ‘Burma’ is used.

Resources from the past week


Statements and Press Releases

လိင်စိတ်ခံယူမှုကွဲပြားသူများ ခွဲခြားဆက်ဆံခံရမှုအပေါ် ပြန်လည်စီစစ်ကာ ထိရောက်စွာအရေးယူပေးနိုင်ပါရန် ပူးတွဲထုတ်ပြန်ချက်

By 71 Myanmar Students’ Union

Atrocity Alert No. 317: Myanmar (Burma), Ukraine and Afghanistan

By Global Centre for the Responsibility to Protect

Statement to the Human Rights Council by Nicholas Koumjian, Head of the Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, on the 51st Regular Session of the Human Rights Council

By Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar

Myanmar: Former BBC journalist imprisoned for incitement

By International Federation of Journalists

Minister for Foreign Affairs Dr Vivian Balakrishnan’s Written Reply to Parliamentary Questions on ASEAN’s Response to Lack of Progress on Five-Point Consensus on Myanmar, 13 September 2022

By Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore

MAP Urges UN General Assembly to Approve Credentials of Myanmar’s Democratic Ambassador

By Myanmar Accountability Project

Statement regarding the deaths and injuries caused by an airstrike on a school in Tabayin Township

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs and Ministry of Human Rights)

A Response to the Announcement by “Save the Children’ Regarding the Report, “The Impacts of the Attacks on Education and Military Use in Myanmar”

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Education, Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs and Ministry of Human Rights)

Myanmar: UN experts urge more help for human rights defenders in push for accountability

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

UN report calls for urgent action to halt access to revenue and arms supplies by Myanmar military

By Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights

Cattle farmer beaten and slashed in the neck by three SAC soldiers in Ke See, southern Shan State

By Shan Human Rights Foundation

The United Nations General Assembly Must Accept the Credentials of Myanmar’s NUG Representative

By Special Advisory Council for Myanmar

Human Rights Council Discusses Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar and in Sri Lanka

By United Nations Human Rights Council



Myanmar: Death of Activists in Custody

By Human Rights Watch

စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်း၊ ယင်းမာပင်လူသတ်မှုကိစ္စ အရေးယူဆောင်ရွက်မှု အစီရင်ခံစာ ထုတ်ပြန်ခြင်း

By National Unity Government (Ministry of Defence)

Myanmar Emergency Update (as of 6 September 2022)

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Myanmar: Inter-agency Update – 6 September 2022

By United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees

Progressive Voice is a participatory, rights-based policy research and advocacy organization that was born out of Burma Partnership. Burma Partnership officially ended its work on October 10, 2016 transitioning to a rights-based policy research and advocacy organization called Progressive Voice. For further information, please see our press release “Burma Partnership Celebrates Continuing Regional Solidarity for Burma and Embraces the Work Ahead for Progressive Voice.”