By Cape Diamond, Jessie Yeung and Maija Ehlinger, CNN
At least 30 people, including women and children, were killed in the eastern Myanmar state of Kayah on Friday, according to the Karenni Human Rights Group, with two members of international humanitarian group Save the Children still missing.
The “charred remains” were discovered and identified close to Hpruso Township in the state, which is also known as Karenni, on December 25, according to the group.
Myanmar’s National Unity Government (NUG) called it a “Christmas massacre in Karenni state,” stating that junta troops “detained an unconfirmed number of [villagers] and travelers and destroyed their properties.”
“As the world celebrates Christmas and its message of peace, the NUG repeats its demands on the international community to act immediately and decisively to end the military junta’s escalating war crimes and crimes against humanity against the Myanmar people,” the NUG statement added.
The Myanmar military, which seized power of the country in a February 1 coup, said it had shot and killed an unspecified number of “terrorists with weapons” from the opposition armed forces in the village, according to state media. The people were in seven vehicles and did not stop for the military, it said.
The military has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
The Karenni National Defense Force, one of the largest of several civilian militias, told Reuters the dead were not their members but civilians seeking refuge from the conflict.
The international NGO Save the Children said two staff members who were traveling home for the holidays were caught in the incident and remain missing.
“We have confirmation that their private vehicle was attacked and burned out,” said the organization in a statement. “The military reportedly forced people from their cars, arrested some, killed others and burned their bodies.”
Save the Children added that at least 38 people were killed in the attack, and the charity has suspended its operations in Kayah, Chin, and parts of Magway and Kayin in response.
“Save the Children condemns this attack as a breach of International Humanitarian Law. We are horrified at the violence carried out against innocent civilians and our staff, who are dedicated humanitarians, supporting millions of children in need across Myanmar,” said Inger Ashing, Chief Executive of Save the Children in a statement. “Investigations into the nature of the incident are continuing but attacks against aid workers cannot be tolerated.”
CNN is reaching out for more information regarding the attack.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the previous elected government and detained many top officials — including ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who was jailed earlier this month.
Since the coup, the military has tried to assert its power over the people through bloody force.
UN agencies, rights groups and local journalists have documented massacres, mass arrests, torture, forced displacement, men, women and children being murdered with impunity, heavy weaponry used by junta forces to attack villages and root out armed resistance groups, and the blocking of humanitarian aid.
Junta forces have killed more than 1,300 people and arrested over 11,000, according to advocacy group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The military has dismissed the AAPP’s data, which has been cited by the United Nations, and accuses it of bias.
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Additional reporting by Reuters.