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Tuesday, 20 September 2022 06:49

Call for action on crisis-hit Myanmar amid school attack

At least seven children killed in military raid, as UN, ASEAN consider tougher measures to deal with crisis triggered by coup.

Southeast Asian nations must decide whether the five-point plan to end the violence caused by the February 2021 coup is “still relevant” and whether it needs to be replaced, Malaysia’s Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah has said, as reports emerged that at least seven children had been killed in a military helicopter raid on a school.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis when the military detained elected civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and seized power. It has cracked down hard on any opposition, describing civilian and ethnic armed groups fighting against its rule as “terrorists” and executing four political prisoners in July.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) brokered a five-point framework with army chief Min Aung Hlaing in April 2021 that was supposed to end the violence, but the generals have ignored it.

Saifuddin said the ASEAN, whose leaders are due to meet in less than two months, were now at the point where they needed to “seriously review” whether the plan was “still relevant” or whether “it should be replaced with something better”.

Myanmar is one of ASEAN’s 10 members and the international community has been relying on the organisation to take the lead in diplomatic efforts to deal with the crisis.

“By the time we meet in November, we must ask that hard question and we must have the answer,” he said.
School attacked

There has been no let-up in violence since the ASEAN agreement, and the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, which has been tracking the crackdown, says nearly 2,300 people have been killed by the military since the coup.

On Friday, at least 13 people were killed, seven of them children, after army helicopters attacked a school in a monastery complex in the northern central Sagaing region.

“They kept shooting into the compound from the air for an hour,” school administrator Mar Mar told the Associated Press news agency. ”They didn’t stop even for one minute. All we could do at that time was chant Buddhist mantras.”

The National Unity Government (NUG), made up of elected politicians who were thrown out of office by the military, accused the generals of “targeted attacks” on schools and called for the release of 20 students and teachers it said had been arrested following the air raids.

In a statement acknowledging that some villagers had been killed in the attack, the military said it raided the compound because armed groups were hiding there and using it for the transport of weapons.

Al Jazeera

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