The toll of civilians who died at the hands of Myanmar’s military junta since it overthrew the country’s elected government 16 months ago reached 2,000 this week and is rising, according to a Thai-based activist group that has closely tracked deaths in the country.
The Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP) said the milestone of 2,000 deaths since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup was reached June 20 and that recent deaths in anti-junta hotbeds Sagaing and Magway regions had pushed the figure to 2,007.
“This is the number verified by AAPP. The actual number of fatalities is likely much higher,” the AAPP said in a statement.
Pope Francis on Sunday called on the international community to take action for the people of Myanmar who continue to suffer violence and displacement following the military coup.
Speaking after the recitation of the Angelus prayer, the pope said he joins “the appeal of the bishops of that beloved land that ask the international community not to forget the Burmese people.”
“Yet again we hear the cry of pain of so many people in Myanmar who still lack basic humanitarian aid and who are forced to leave their homes because — they are burned down — and to escape violence,” said the pope.
Myanmar‘s Catholic bishops last week expressed deep concern for the plight of civilians who continue to bear the brunt of the country‘s ongoing civil war.
They called on all sides of the conflict to respect human life and dignity saying, “human dignity and the right to life can never be violated.”
“We strongly ask for respect for life and for the sacredness of places of worship, hospitals, schools,” said the bishops.
The 2,000 deaths were memorialized by the U.S. and EU diplomatic missions in Yangon, with Brussels’ office posting a black cover on its social media page to express its condolences and Washington calling for accountability.
“The inhumane atrocities committed by the military against the people of Burma across the country are a result of the lack of accountability among responsible persons on the part of the military. It highlights the urgent need for accountability,” the U.S. Embassy said.
The AAPP report came five weeks after Institute for Strategy and Policy (ISP Myanmar), a local think tank, said in a report that it had documented at least 5,646 civilian deaths between the Feb. 1, 2021, coup and May 10.
The ISP figure included people killed by security forces during anti-junta protests, in clashes between the military and pro-democracy paramilitaries or ethnic armies, while held in detention, and in revenge attacks, including against informers for the regime.
At least 1,831 civilians were killed in shooting deaths, the largest number of which occurred in war-torn Sagaing region, where junta troops have faced some of the toughest resistance to military rule in clashes with People’s Defense Force (PDF) paramilitaries that have displaced tens of thousands of residents since the coup, the ISP report said.
The military has disputed or rejected the figures released by NGOS.
Junta-controlled newspapers said last month that 2,796 non-combatants had been killed between the coup and May 15.
The military proxy Union Solidarity and Development Party said 3,107 people have been killed after being accused of being military informants, 690 people died in armed clashes and 18 were slain by the pro-junta militia Thway Thauk, or Blood Comrades. – with a report from Radio Free Asia