Save the Children, a humanitarian group, has reported that fighting between Myanmar’s military and ethnic Rakhine rebels in recent months has caused a frightening spike in violence against children.
According to the reports released by the group on Tuesday June 23, 2020, the conflict in the far west of Myanmar has left children increasingly exposed to starvation.
“The widespread use of mines and improvised explosive devices poses a specific threat to children,” Duncan Harvey, Save the Children’s top official in Myanmar, said in a statement.
“The numbers paint a stark picture,” Harvey said, pointing to the report, which verified dozens of incidents of children being killed or maimed.
Between January and March this year in the central part of Rakhine State alone, 18 children were killed and 71 children were physically injured or maimed, according to the report.
In comparison, there were three recorded cases of children being killed and 12 others injured between October and December, 2019.
“Killing, maiming as well are extortion are the top three human rights abuses affecting children in central Rakhine,” the report adds.
It was reported that the real number of casualties could be higher because of “severe under-reporting” and the restrictions placed by the military on independent observers.
Myanmar’s armed forces, also known as Tatmadaw, have been battling the Arakan Army, a rebel group seeking greater autonomy for the country’s western region. Clashes in Rakhine and neighbouring Chin state have lefts dozens dead and thousands displaced.
Rakhine is also home to tens of thousands of mostly Muslim Rohingya, many of whom were forced to flee to Bangladesh after a brutal military crackdown in 2017.
John Quinley III, Senior Human Rights Specialist at Fortify Rights that monitors the welfare of Rohingya, said there had been instances that Rohingya communities were caught in crossfires between the military and the Arakan rebels.
He also noted that the deadly landmines and other explosive ordinances laid on the ground both by the military and rebels in conflict zones do not discriminate who it could kill, including women and children.
Save the Children’s report mirrors an earlier report by the UN which recorded at least 432 incidents of “grave violations against children” in recent months, including the killing of at least 41 children and maiming of 120 others, some as young as six months old.
The UN had also reported 12 attacks against schools, and the abduction of 12 children by non-state armed actors.
Previously, the UN had accused Myanmar’s military of recruiting child soldiers, as well as employing child labourers to carry bricks and harvest rice at their barracks.