December 26 (Reuters) – Aid group Save the Children said it was suspending operations in conflict-torn Myanmar Kayah state after two staff disappeared in attack that left at least 30 dead , including women and children, and many burned bodies.
The two staff members were on their way to their home villages for the holiday season when they were caught in the violence in the eastern part of the state, Save the Children said in a statement on Saturday evening.
“We have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and set on fire,” the statement said.
Opposition groups on Saturday accused the army, which seized power from a civilian government in February, for Friday’s carnage near the village of Mo So in the town of Hpruso.
Junta spokesman General Zaw Mun Tun did not answer his phone on Sunday. Reuters could not independently verify Saturday accounts of the attack on a local resident, media reports and a local human rights group.
State media reported that army troops shot and killed an unknown number of “armed terrorists” from the opposition armed forces fighting the military government.
Photos shared by Karenni Human Rights Group and local media showed the charred remains of bodies on burnt out trucks.
A villager told Reuters on Saturday he saw 32 bodies, while Save the Children said at least 38 people were killed.
The London-based charity says it has suspended operations in Kayah and parts of neighboring Karen State and in the Magway region.
“We are horrified by the violence against innocent civilians and our staff, who are dedicated humanitarians, supporting millions of children in need across Myanmar,” said Save the Children Executive Director Inger Ashing.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the elected government of Nobel Laureate Aung San Suu Kyi on February 1, who was sentenced to four years in prison and faces several other criminal charges.
At least 1,375 people have been killed and more than 8,000 imprisoned in the crackdown on protests and armed opposition since the coup, according to a count by the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners.
The military government disputes these figures and claims that soldiers were also killed in clashes.
(Reuters staff report; Editing by William Mallard)
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