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Myanmar's military is blamed for a Christmas Eve massacre


Myanmar's military is being blamed for a Christmas Eve massacre in the east of the country. At least 35 people were killed. It happened as resistance to the military coups earlier this year grows. Michael Sullivan reports from neighboring Thailand.

MICHAEL SULLIVAN, BYLINE: The videos and photos said to show the aftermath of the attack have been widely shared on social media, and they're grim - charred remains of bodies in the beds of several burnt-out trucks. A local human rights group claims women and children are among the dead.

BANYA KHUN AUNG: At least 10 children and then about 15, together, women.

SULLIVAN: That's Banya Khun Aung, director of the Karenni Human Rights Group. He spoke with two people who saw the burnt-out vehicles and took the pictures. But he's worried about being able to positively identify all the dead.

BANYA KHUN AUNG: No, we cannot - even though we cannot investigate more because the (unintelligible) nearby that area. We're afraid that they want to destroy the evidence.

SULLIVAN: The aid group Save the Children says two of its workers traveling home for the holidays are missing and says it has confirmation their vehicle was among those attacked and burned. The Save the Children statement, said the military, reportedly forced people from their cars, arresting some, killing others, then burning their bodies. Myanmar's military has not responded directly to the allegations, but a report on state-run media on Saturday said government troops had fired on what it said were terrorists and suspicious vehicles in the area and that seven vehicles were destroyed. Over the weekend, Myanmar's military carried out more airstrikes and artillery attacks against rebel-held areas in neighboring Karen state. Major General Nerdah Bo Mya of the Karen National Defence Organisation says those attacks have come mainly at night.

NERDAH BO MYA: I think the main reason they're dropping bombs at night is to terrorize the people and also to encourage their troops by saying, OK, we are behind you.

SULLIVAN: In the past few weeks, thousands of people have fled the violence across the border into Thailand, which is growing concerned about the influx and the fighting along its border. On Friday, representatives of several foreign governments in Myanmar issued a joint statement calling for an end to what the statement called the indiscriminate attacks in Karen state and elsewhere by Myanmar's military, calling them a violation of international law.

For NPR News, I'm Michael Sullivan in Chiang Rai, Thailand.


Michael Sullivan is NPR's Senior Asia Correspondent. He moved to Hanoi to open NPR's Southeast Asia Bureau in 2003. Before that, he spent six years as NPR's South Asia correspondent based in but seldom seen in New Delhi.