Humanitarian organization Save the Children said that two of its Myanmar staff were missing on Saturday, after the charred remains of more than 30 people were found following an attack a monitoring group and local media blamed on junta troops.
Myanmar has been in chaos since a coup in February, with more than 1,300 people killed in a crackdown by security forces, a local monitoring group has said.
“People’s Defense Forces” (PDF) have sprung up across the country to fight the junta, and have drawn the military into a bloody stalemate of clashes and reprisals.
On Saturday, photographs appeared on social media purporting to show two burnt-out trucks and a car on a highway in Hpruso township in eastern Kayah State, with charred bodies inside.
A member of a local PDF group said its fighters had found the vehicles in the morning after hearing that the military had stopped several vehicles in Hpruso on Friday.
“When we went to check in the area this morning, we found dead bodies burnt in two trucks. We found 27 dead bodies,” he said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
“We found 27 skulls, but there were other dead bodies on the truck, which had been burned to pieces so we couldn’t count them,” said another witness who did not want to be named.
Save the Children later on Saturday said that two of its staff had been “caught up” in the incident and were missing.
It added that it had “confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned out.”
The two had been traveling home after carrying out humanitarian work in the region, the charity said in a statement, adding that it has since suspended its work in several regions.
“We are horrified at the violence carried out against innocent civilians and our staff, who are dedicated humanitarians, supporting millions of children in need across Myanmar,” Save the Children chief executive officer Inger Ashing said.
The junta previously said its troops had been attacked in Hpruso on Friday, after they attempted to stop seven vehicles driving in a “suspicious way.”
Troops had killed a number of people in the clash that followed, spokesman Zaw Min Tun said.
The Myanmar Witness monitor said it had confirmed local media reports and witness accounts from local fighters “that 35 people including children and women were burnt and killed by the military on 24th December Hpruso township.”
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