Myanmar’s junta blamed for deaths of more than 160 children in 2022

Exiled National Unity Government says figure is a rise of 78% on last year, following February 2021 coup

Myanmar’s military junta killed 165 children in 2022, according to the country’s exiled opposition National Unity Government (NUG). According to their data, 78% more children died at the hands of the occupying military in 2022 compared with 2021.

“The NUG figure appears credible,” says Thomas Kean, a senior consultant on Myanmar for the International Crisis Group, explaining that reports are often accompanied by evidence.

Analysis by local media suggests artillery attacks targeting forces resistant to the junta were mainly to blame. Myanmar has spiralled into bloody conflict since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s civilian government in February 2021, with thousands of people killed.

Artillery and air power is more indiscriminate, Kean said, and according to a spokesperson at the NUG’s Ministry of Women, Youths and Children Affairs, the military regime is intensifying their bombing and airstrikes, targeting schools operating in NUG controlled areas.

In September, over a dozen children were killed in an airstrike on a school in Sagaing, in November children were among the victims of a shelling in Rakhine state and a number of children were among the dead in 2021’s Christmas Eve massacre in Kayah state.

A ministry spokesperson encouraged airstrike drill training among young people. “Local communities, resistance organisations and the NUG have to provide bomb shelters nearby schools,” they said.

The increased reliance on artillery and air power is down to stretched manpower, Kean said, but also serves as collective punishment for communities believed to be supporting the junta’s opponents.

“This fits in with a pattern of how it wages war, civilians are often deliberately targeted,” he said, adding that the torching of homes and destruction of entire villages isn’t uncommon.

There have also been reports of children being beaten, cut, stabbed, burned with cigarettes and having fingernails pulled out, Thomas Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, said in June.

“They have been forced to hold stress positions; they have been subjected to mock executions; they have been sexually assaulted,” he said, adding that children are often held hostage until their parents give themselves up.

A UN report released in June, put the number of children tortured since the coup at 142 with more than 1,400 arbitrarily detained. As of 27 December the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners listed a total 2,660 people as having been murdered since the start of the coup.

Aside from the threat of violence, children are experiencing malnutrition, limited access to clean water, health care and education, with 5.6 million children in need of humanitarian assistance.

The UN Child Rights Committee has previously called for perpetrators to be held accountable and for assistance to be delivered safely to Myanmar’s children.


Rebecca Root in Bangkok

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Myanmar’s besieged resistance dreams of ‘people's army’ to counter junta
On the barricades and in border hideouts there is a growing mood to take the fight to the military after the coup that has left more than 200 dead

Lorcan Lovett and Michael Safi

20, Mar, 2021 @9:15 PM

Article image
‘I can’t go home’: families hide in Myanmar’s forests as fighting rages
As the military targets civilians and blocks aid, those who have left home to avoid violence risk death finding food and healthcare

Khu Peh Bue

03, Feb, 2022 @6:45 AM

Article image
Children of the junta: the relatives of Myanmar’s military regime living in Australia
Relatives of military-linked officials are being targeted by anti-coup campaigners in Australia – even if they oppose the junta themselves

Ben Doherty, Nino Bucci and Ben Butler

07, May, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
Myanmar junta labels opposition government of ousted MPs a ‘terrorist’ group
Coup leaders ban opposition national unity government, and contact with them, as they seek to quell ongoing protests

Staff and agencies

09, May, 2021 @2:00 AM

Article image
Myanmar junta hit by western sanctions as ‘silent strikes’ mark coup anniversary
The UK, US, Canada and Australia have announced a range of measures aimed at punishing Myanmar’s military

Rebecca Ratcliffe South-east Asia correspondent

01, Feb, 2023 @12:50 PM

Article image
‘We’ll keep reporting, whatever the risk from the junta,’ say Myanmar’s journalists
To avoid arrest, the staff of the 74 Media left their home city, only to face shellfire in their border refuge. The editor describes the risks faced by his media outlet

John Padang

02, Feb, 2022 @6:45 AM

Article image
Myanmar: Aung San Suu Kyi accused of taking bribes as more deaths reported
Elected leader’s party reject as ‘slander’ junta’s allegations that Suu Kyi took cash and gold worth nearly $1.3m, as UN condemns crackdown

Guardian staff and agencies

11, Mar, 2021 @2:13 PM

Article image
Aung San Suu Kyi moved to solitary confinement, says Myanmar junta
Ousted leader, held at secret location for past year, charged with at least 20 offences and could spend rest of life in jail

Rebecca Ratcliffe and agencies

23, Jun, 2022 @9:43 AM

Article image
‘Monster from the sky’: two years on from coup, Myanmar junta increases airstrikes on civilians
People across the country now live under constant threat of attacks from the skies

Rebecca Ratcliffe South east Asia correspondent and Min Ye Kyaw

31, Jan, 2023 @9:00 AM

Article image
‘We wanted to scare them’: the brothers who fought back against Myanmar’s army
Three months after the coup, four brothers tell how they joined protesters fighting the junta before fleeing for the border

Caleb Quinley in Bangkok

29, Apr, 2021 @2:23 AM