The shooting death of a seven-year-old girl in her own home triggered fresh outrage at Myanmar’s military crackdown on Wednesday, with at least 20 children reported killed since the junta took charge last month.
The regime has unleashed a deadly wave of violence as it struggles to quell nationwide protests against the Feb 1 ouster and arrest of civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The 75-year-old Nobel laureate has a court hearing scheduled Wednesday as she faces a series of criminal charges that could see her permanently barred from political office.
There was chaos overnight in Mandalay with barricades burning, arrests, homes raided by security forces, beatings and machine guns ringing out over multiple neighbourhoods, local media reported.
Three people were killed on Tuesday including Khin Myo Chit, 7, shot dead at her home in Mandalay, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP), a local monitoring group.
AFP has yet to independently verify the girl’s death.
Aid group Save the Children and AAPP both say that at least 20 people aged under 18 have been killed in the crackdown.
“We are horrified that children continue to be among the targets of these fatal attacks on peaceful protestors,” Save the Children said in a statement.
“The safety of children must be protected under all circumstances and we once again call on security forces to end these deadly attacks against protesters immediately.”
The charity said it was also extremely worried about “hundreds of young people” being held in detention.
Myanmar’s junta on Tuesday defended its seven-week crackdown, insisting it would not tolerate “anarchy”.
AAPP has verified 275 deaths since the coup, but warns the toll could be higher, and says more than 2,800 people have been detained.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun put the death toll lower at 164, and branded the victims “violent terrorist people” at a Tuesday news conference in the capital Naypyidaw.
Suu Kyi back in court
Suu Kyi has another legal hearing in a Naypyidaw court on Wednesday.
But her lawyer Khin Maung Zaw said it was not certain to go ahead because of problems with video conferencing caused by a junta-imposed internet shutdown.
“The hearing may not commence… the court has no WiFi,” he told AFP.
“If she can not participate in the video conference there won’t be a hearing.”
He added that on Wednesday morning there was a large police presence outside the court gates and lawyers were not being allowed into the building.
Khin Maung Zaw said he has still not been able to speak to his client privately.
Suu Kyi faces several criminal charges, including for owning unlicensed walkie-talkies and violating coronavirus restrictions by staging a campaign event in 2020.
She is also being investigated for corruption allegations.
The military junta alleges the detained chief minister of Yangon confessed to giving Suu Kyi US$600,000 in cash, along with more than 11kg (US$680,000 worth) of gold.
The junta has also been targeting the media.
Thein Zaw, a photographer for Associated Press, who has been charged with “spreading false news” is also due to appear in a Yangon court on Wednesday.