There is compelling evidence of mass killing of civilians by Myanmar’s military, according to the United Nations. These killings are part of the military’s ongoing efforts to quell armed resistance to its power grab — the February 2021 coup that ousted Aung San Suu Kyi’s government, which won the recent elections.
According to the recent annual report from the U.N’s Independent Investigative Mechanism for Myanmar, the “increasingly frequent and brazen” war crimes committed by the military junta in the Southeast Asian country include “indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks on civilians from aerial bombing.” One such attack in the centrally located Sagaing Region in April killed at least 155 people, including 30 children. (Also see, the nations that killed the most civilians during the 20th century.)
Myanmar (formerly Burma) is one of 14 countries in the world identified by the Early Warning Project, a partnership between the Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide and Dartmouth College, where civilian noncombatants are being targeted by government security forces or armed rebel groups, and sometimes both at the same time.
24/7 Wall St. listed here the 20 episodes in which the deliberate actions of armed groups resulted, through mass killings, in the deaths of at least 1,000 noncombatant civilians who have been targeted as part of a specific group in a period of one year or less. The episodes were ranked based on the length of the conflict.
Civilians are being violently targeted by more than one ongoing systematic campaign of violence in five of these countries — Myanmar, Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan, and Syria — which appear more than once on the list.
For example, Myanmar’s security forces have for decades, since the country’s 1948 independence from Britain, targeted ethnic minorities in the country’s eastern region. While this is ongoing, in 2016, Myanmar’s military under Suu Kyi’s government set its sights on the Muslim Rohingya population. A third wave of mass killing of civilians and combatants opposed to the military’s authoritarian rule erupted in 2021 following the military’s power grab.
Like Myanmar, Ethiopian state security forces are currently embroiled in more than one wave of mass killings. In 2015, the military responded violently to public protests defending the rights of the Oromo people, Ethiopia’s largest ethnic minority, in an ongoing and unresolved conflict. Then in 2020, a civil war broke out in Ethiopia’s northern Tigray region, pitting the militaries of Ethiopia and neighboring Eritrea against a Tigray paramilitary group seeking independence. The war ended in 2022, but the local civilian population remains a target. (These are the national borders on the brink of war.)
In three of the 14 countries — Nigeria, Sudan, and South Sudan — mass killings are perpetuated by both security forces and rebel organizations, both sides targeting civilians perceived to support the other side in the conflicts. For example, since 2009, Nigeria’s security apparatus began targeting civilian noncombatants perceived to support Boko Haram, the Islamist militant organization, which since 2010 has retaliated by targeting civilians believed to support the Nigerian government.
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