At least 43 children have been killed by Myanmar armed forces since February’s military coup, according to charity Save the Children, with the youngest known victim just seven years old.
The group said the Southeast Asian country was in a “nightmare situation”.
A local monitoring group puts the overall death toll at 536 and the UN’s envoy to Myanmar has warned of the risk of an “imminent bloodbath” as the crackdown intensifies.
The warning follows a flare-up in fighting between the army and ethnic minority militias in border areas with thousands flocking to the Thai and Indian borders, the BBC reports.
When tens of thousands of people took to the streets nationwide to protest against the coup, the military used water cannon to attempt to disperse them. After a week, the response escalated, and rubber bullets and live ammunition were used.
Witnesses say the armed forces have attacked people at random on the streets, and some people have even been killed in their own homes.
The family of seven-year-old girl Khin Myo Chit told the BBC she was killed by police while she ran towards her father during a raid on their home in the city of Mandalay at the end of March.
“They kicked the door to open it,” her sister, May Thu Sumaya, 25, said. “When the door was open, they asked my father whether there were any other people in the house.”
When he said no, they accused him of lying and began searching the house, she said. That was when Khin Myo Chit ran over to her father. “Then they shot and hit her,” May Thu Sumaya said.
Also among the dead are a 14-year-old boy who is believed to have been shot while inside, or close to, his home in Mandalay, and a 13-year-old who was shot in Yangon while playing in the street.
Save the Children has warned that the number of children injured in clashes is also likely to be significant, citing the case of a one-year-old baby who was reportedly hit in the eye with a rubber bullet.
The rights group warned that the violence was having an effect on children’s mental health as they suffer fear, grief and stress.
“Children have witnessed violence and horror,” it said in a statement. “It is clear that Myanmar is no longer a safe place for children.”
The violence has sparked an international outcry, with various countries – including the US and UK – announcing sanctions against the coup leaders and military-linked companies.
On Thursday, Britain announced further measures against the Myanmar Economic Corporation, a conglomerate that has provided funds to the Myanmar military.
“The Myanmar military has sunk to a new low with the wanton killing of innocent people, including children,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said. “The UK’s latest actions target one of the military’s key funding streams and impose a further cost on them for their violations of human rights.”
Myanmar, or Burma as it was then known, was a British colony from 1824 to 1948.