‘Nightmare scenario’ as dozens of kids die
In two months of devastation that have rocked Myanmar, at least 43 children have been killed by armed forces, according to rights organisation Save the Children.
The group said the South East Asian country was in a "nightmare situation", with the youngest known victim just six years old.
Myanmar has been engulfed in violence February's military coup, when the democratically-elected government was kicked out - leading to sustained protests.
With the violence spiking in recent weeks - and more than 100 people killed last Saturday alone - Save the Children says the death toll of children has more than doubled in the past 12 days.
It said the army is demonstrating the "utter disrespect of armed forces for the lives of children".
"This is a nightmare scenario unfolding," the group said. "Innocent children have had their futures brutally and needlessly snatched away from them. Grieving families - among them young children who have seen siblings die - are suffering unimaginable loss and pain."
The total number of people killed now stands at 535, according to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners (AAPP).
Save the Children says the youngest victim was a girl, who was just six years old.
"A total of 15 children under the age of 16 are among the casualties, including children aged 9 and 11," it said in a statement.
"Among those killed were a 13-year-old boy who was reportedly shot in the head whilst trying to run away from armed forces, and a 14-year-old Mandalay boy was reportedly shot dead whilst he was inside or around his home.
"The number of children who have been physically injured as a result of the post-coup violence is unknown, but it is likely to be significant. Among those injured was a one-year-old baby who was reportedly shot in the eye with a rubber bullet."
The UN's envoy to Myanmar has warned of the risk of an "imminent bloodbath" as the crackdown against pro-democracy protests in the country intensifies.
Meanwhile, Myanmar's ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi has been accused of breaking a colonial-era official secrets law, her lawyer said.
The newly unveiled charge came amid growing international outrage over the February 1 coup and the military's subsequent clampdown on protesters.
Internet service providers were ordered to shut down Myanmar's wireless services, provider Ooredoo said Thursday, in the latest move to suppress communication.
Britain announced sanctions on the Myanmar Economic Corporation (MEC), a conglomerate controlled by the military that Washington has already black-listed.
International powers have sought to pile pressure on the military by hitting its sprawling business interests, which include the country's lucrative jade and ruby trade.
Earlier, Suu Kyi appeared by video link in court in the capital Naypyidaw, where she faces a raft of charges that could see her barred from political office.
The hearing dealt with administrative aspects of the case including the formal appointment of eight defence lawyers.
"Daw Aung San Suu Kyi's physical condition was good according to the (lawyer who saw her on screen). She was smart and charming as always," lawyer Khin Maung Zaw told reporters.
He later told AFP that Suu Kyi has been accused of breaking an official secrets law in a lawsuit filed March 25.
The junta is also probing the Nobel laureate over allegations she took payments of gold and more than $1 million in cash, but Khin Maung Zaw said these were not likely to translate into formal charges at this stage.
The next hearing will be April 12.
- with AFP
Originally published as 'Nightmare scenario' as dozens of kids die