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Myanmar residents mourn murdered civilians

This week in international news

The site of an attack in eastern Myanmar on Dec. 24 Associated Press/KNDF

Myanmar residents mourn murdered civilians

Community members in eastern Myanmar, also known as Burma, gathered last Wednesday for the funeral rites of 35 people killed and burned on Christmas Eve. The victims, who were Catholic, included a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, and two local staff members of the nonprofit Save the Children.

Residents said the army blocked a local parish priest from entering Mo So village for the funeral, so catechists performed the final rites. “We are all sad, afraid, shocked,” Clement, one of the funeral attendees, told Agenzia Fides. “The army is now mercilessly terrorizing and massacring the population, committing crimes against humanity.”

Residents accused the military of killing the civilians during a battle with armed resistance groups. Since a February coup, the military junta has faced growing opposition from protesters and armed groups across the country.

More than 80 people have been killed in the restive northwest Sagaing region since August. Satellite imagery recorded more than 580 razed buildings in the northwestern town of Thantlang. The attacks are reminiscent of the military’s tactics against the Rohingya minority group. A former captain who deserted said the military junta has reinforced soldiers in northwestern Chin state and stockpiled ammunition and fuel, raising concerns about a possible major military offensive.

Following the Christmas Eve attack, the Burmese Catholic Church released a Dec. 27 statement imploring armed groups to lay down their weapons and asking the military to stop targeting civilians, homes, and churches. “The fact that the bodies of those killed, burned, and mutilated were found on Christmas Day makes this appalling tragedy even more poignant and sickening,” said Cardinal Charles Maung Bo, the archbishop of Yangon and president of the Bishops’ Conference of Myanmar. “We must make peace ourselves, and together chart a new future of freedom with justice, truth, and reconciliation.”

Qandi Gul, who was sold into a prearranged marriage to feed the rest of the family, holds her younger brother near Herat, Afghanistan.

Qandi Gul, who was sold into a prearranged marriage to feed the rest of the family, holds her younger brother near Herat, Afghanistan. Associated Press/Photo by Mstyslav Chernov, file

World radar

  • AFGHANISTAN: As hunger intensifies in the Taliban-controlled country, some parents are selling sons and daughters in a desperate bid to feed the rest of their families. More than half of Afghanistan’s population is battling acute hunger. The United Nations said it took five years of war for Syria’s economy to contract to the level that Afghanistan’s has reached since August. In the northwest, Hamid Abdullah, a father of four, said he offered to prearrange a marriage for his 6-year-old daughter, Mazia, for a down payment of $200-$300 to feed his family and care for his pregnant wife. “We have to do it, we have no other option,” said his wife, Bibi Jan. “When we made the decision, it was like someone had taken away a body part from me.”

  • PHILIPPINES: Residents in central and southeastern Philippines are still trying to recover from Typhoon Rai, which first made landfall on Dec. 16. The storm, locally called Odette, killed more than 375 people. Oyunsaikhan Dendevnorov, a country representative with the United Nations children’s agency, said children are suffering from diarrhea as heavy rainfall continues across the region. “Local government officials are overwhelmed and child workers such as teachers and social workers are themselves affected,” she said.

  • FRANCE: Activists are calling for stronger government action against femicides after three women were killed on Jan. 1, each allegedly by a partner or former partner. The dead include a 28-year-old military recruit, a 56-year-old woman found with a knife in her chest after a violent dispute at home, and a 45-year-old woman discovered in the trunk of a car. French authorities in 2021 recorded at least 113 femicides—killings of women by men who were typically spouses, romantic partners, or ex-partners.

  • NORTH KOREA: Officials with the South Korea Joint Chiefs of Staff reported an unidentified person crossing the eastern border into North Korea over the weekend. Authorities later confirmed he was a North Korean defector who was returning after entering the South late in 2020. South Korea sent a message to the North on Sunday asking about the defector’s safety but received no response. South Korea said Northern troops were ordered to shoot anyone crossing illegally into the country due to the pandemic.

  • SOUTH AFRICA: A fire burned for two days and destroyed South Africa’s Parliament chamber, offices, and nearby buildings in Cape Town before firefighters brought it under control earlier this week. The government was closed for the holidays at the time, and no injuries were reported. Authorities detained a suspect and charged him with arson, theft, and housebreaking, among other offenses. Parts of the parliamentary complex date back to 1884.

  • INDIA: The country’s Home Affairs Ministry informed Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity on Christmas Day that it would no longer be permitted to receive foreign funds. Nearly two weeks earlier, Hindu hardliners accused the ministry of forced conversions at one of its homes for girls in Gujarat state. Oxfam India also reported the ministry failed to renew its license permitting it to receive foreign funds on Jan. 1.

Africa brief

Despite the ongoing unrest across northwestern Nigeria, the country tallied some recent wins in the region. Nigerian police this week reported the rescue of 97 hostages, including 19 babies, who had spent more than two months in captivity. Days earlier, police said they rescued 21 schoolchildren. In the village of Dansadau, community members report enjoying two mostly calm months after striking a deal between herders, farmers, and armed bandits. On Wednesday, the federal government officially designated some armed groups in the Northwest as terrorists, although it’s unclear how much change that will bring.

Onize Ohikere

Onize is WORLD’s Africa reporter and deputy global desk chief. She is a World Journalism Institute graduate and earned a journalism degree from Minnesota State University–Moorhead. Onize resides in Abuja, Nigeria.



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