CNA Staff, Oct 17, 2020 / 06:01 am (CNA).- United Nations officials in Burma said Wednesday that earlier this month, two boys were killed amid crossfire between the Tatmadaw, the country’s military, and the Arakan Army, an ethnic Buddhist separatist group.

The UN Country Taskforce on Monitoring and Reporting on Grave Violations against Children in Myanmar said Oct. 14 that on Oct. 5 “two boys were killed in Buthidaung Township, Rakhine State, in crossfire between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army. This occurred after the children, as part of a group of 15 local farmers, were alleged to all have been forced to walk in front of a Tatmadaw unit to ensure the path towards a military camp was clear of landmines and to protect the soldiers from potential enemy fire.”

“On the way, fighting broke out between the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army, after which the two boys were found dead with gunshot wounds.”

The Tatmadaw had been censured internationaly the for the recruitment of minors, but had been delisted within the last year.

“We call for a full, transparent, and expedited  investigation of the incident and for anyone responsible for the use and for the killing of the children to be held accountable,” the CTFMR stated.

The taskforce added, “We are also deeply concerned about the alarming increase of reports of killings and injuries of children in Myanmar. More than 100 children were killed or maimed in conflict during the first three months of 2020, amounting to more than half of the total number in 2019, and significantly surpassing the total number of child casualties in 2018.”

The Tatmadaw have been fighting the Arakan Army since at least 2018.

The Arakan Army wants self-determination for the Rakhine people, a Buddhist ethnic group who live largely in Rakhine state and who constitute as much as 6 percent of Burma’s population.

In April Pyae Sone Win Maung was killed while driving a UN vehicle in Rakhine state. He was collecting Covid-19 samples for the World Health Organization. Both the Tatmadaw and the Arakan Army denied involvement.

In October 2019, Cardinal Charles Maung Bo of Yangon lamented that “not a single day passes without the heart wrenching news of innocent civilians being displaced or killed or maimed by the ongoing conflict in Lashio, other Northern regions and Rakhine State.”

Beginning in late 2016 the Rohingya, a Muslim minority group who have mostly occupied Rakhine state, faced a sharp increase in state-sponsored violence in their homeland. Tens of thousands of people have been displaced, and the military has been accused of conducting numerous human violations such as rape and murder.

Despite widespread use of the word Rohingya in the international community, the term is controversial within Burma. The Burmese government refuses to use the term, and considers them illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. They have been denied citizenship and numerous other rights since a controversial law was enacted in 1982.

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