Dozens of bodies have been found in the jungle of Myanmar in recent weeks as the country descends into violence after a brutal military coup in February.
A militia force fighting the army in a central part of the country and residents have found at least 40 bodies in jungle areas in recent weeks, including some showing signs of torture, according to a militia member, media reports and Myanmar's UN envoy.
Since then, the country's military junta has committed numerous abuses against the population that amount to crimes against humanity, Human Rights Watch said this week.
Hundreds of people have been killed as the army violently quelled protests, while others have died in clashes against the military as hastily assembled and often lightly armed local militias fight back.
The bodies of Myanmar residents most recently uncovered were reportedly found in several locations around Kani, a town in the Sagaing area, which has seen fierce fighting in recent months between the army and the militia groups set up by opponents of military rule.
Myanmar Now News carried vision of the bodies sprinkled across the jungle floor. Some victims were found covered by a sheet under a burned hut and were starting to decompose, local media said.
Other vision showed residents digging graves for the dead.
Fighting in the area has now mainly stopped and it was unclear if more bodies would be found, a member of the Kani militia, who asked not to be identified, told Reuters.
"Most villagers in the remote area had fled to the nearby town," he said, accusing the military and a rival pro-junta militia of carrying out reprisal killings and looting.
'No sign of easing atrocities' in Myanmar
Twelve more bodies had been found on July 30, including a 14-year-old, and all showed signs of heavy bruising, The Irrawaddy newspaper reported.
Earlier in July, 16 bodies were found near another village in the area and a further 12 in other areas, the paper said.
In a letter to UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Myanmar's UN envoy Kyaw Moe Tun – who represents the elected civilian government – said a total of 40 bodies were found and described three different incidents during July in Kani.
Kyaw Moe Tun described the incidents as "clearly amounting to crimes against humanity," calling on the UN Security Council and international community to impose a global arms embargo on Myanmar's military.
"There is no sign of easing atrocities, killing, arrest committed by the military," he wrote.
"We demand for urgent humanitarian intervention from the international community before it is too late."
More than 900 residents killed since coup
According to Human Rights Watch, police and soldiers have killed over 900 protesters and bystanders, including about 75 children.
The groups says the military has forcibly disappeared over 100 people, and tortured and raped an unknown number in custody while several thousand people have been arbitrarily arrested and detained.
"Myanmar’s junta has responded to massive popular opposition to the coup with killings, torture, and arbitrary detention of people who merely want last year’s election results to be respected and a government that reflects the popular will," said Brad Adams, the organisation's Asia director.
"These attacks on the population amount to crimes against humanity for which those responsible should be brought to account."
The estimates by HRW align with that of the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners, a Thai-based activist group, which say security forces in Myanmar have killed at least 946 people since the coup.
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