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At least 22 people have died in an alleged massacre at a Myanmar monastery

At least 22 people, including three Buddhist monks, were shot at close range in central Myanmar last week, according to a medical post-mortem report, in what opponents of the military government say was a military-led massacre of civilians.

A spokesman for Myanmar’s junta, which launched a coup two years ago to oust an elected government, said its troops had engaged in clashes with rebel fighters in the Pinlaung region of southern Shan state but had not harmed any civilians.

Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun said in a statement that the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF) and another rebel group entered the village of Nan Neint after government forces arrived to provide security for local people’s militias.

“When the terrorist groups violently opened fire… some villagers were killed and injured,” he said. He did not respond to multiple Reuters requests for further comment.

A KNDF spokesman said its troops entered Nan Neint on Sunday and found dead bodies scattered in a Buddhist monastery.

Video and photos provided by the KNDF and another group, the Karenni Revolution Union (KRU), showed bullet holes in the torsos and heads of the dead bodies and bullet holes in the walls of the monastery. Reuters could not independently verify the authenticity of the material.

A post-mortem report by Dr Ye Zaw, who is part of the National Unity Government, an exiled civilian administration created after the coup, said automatic weapons were likely used at close range to kill 22 people, including three saffron-robed monks.

“Since no military uniforms, equipment and ammunition were found on the rest of the bodies, it is clear that they were civilians,” said the report. ‚ÄúSince all the dead bodies were found in the grounds of Nan Nein Monastery, it is obvious that it was a massacre.

Fighting has been raging in the area for at least two weeks, and according to local media reports, resistance forces and satellite images verified by Myanmar Witness, about 100 structures have burned in and around the site of the alleged massacre in Nan Neint. which documents human rights violations.

The Southeast Asian country has been in crisis since the military seized power in February 2021, ending a decade of tentative moves toward democracy by ousting the government led by Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi.

Resistance movements emerged nationwide, some armed, against which the military met with lethal force and labeled them “terrorists”. Some ethnic military forces also sided with the junta.

Aung Myo Min, minister for human rights in the government of national unity, said the junta had stepped up combat operations in the past two weeks, attacking groups of unarmed civilians on at least four occasions.

“It is clearly evident that the junta’s strategy is to target civilians, which is a crime against humanity,” he told reporters at an online media conference. The junta has denied targeting civilians and said its troops only respond to “terrorist” attacks.

At least 3,137 people have been killed in the military crackdown since the coup, according to the non-profit Association for the Support of Political Prisoners. The United Nations has accused the military of war crimes and crimes against humanity.

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