At least 40 extra-judicial killings were conducted by the Myanmar military in July this year, according to a report.
The killings allegedly took place in central Myanmar’s Kani Township in four separate incidents in the span of less than a month, the BBC reported on Monday following an investigation with Myanmar Witness, a UK-based NGO.
Eyewitnesses said the military rounded up villagers before separating the men and killing them. The men were allegedly tortured before they were killed and their mutilated bodies were buried in shallow graves.
General Zaw Min Tun, Myanmar’s deputy minister for information and a military spokesperson, did not deny the mass killings when the BBC inquired about the allegations.
“It can happen,” he told the public broadcaster.
“When they treat us as enemies, we have the right to defend ourselves.”
The greatest number of killings took place in Yin village, where 14 men were tortured and killed, after which their bodies were dumped in a forest.
In Zee Bin Dwin village, 12 mutilated bodies were found buried in shallow mass graves.
This included a small body, possibly that of a child, and the body of a disabled person, the report added.
The BBC said it had video footage that showed that a man in his sixties was tied to a nearby tree and tortured.
One of the survivors of the killings in Yin village said the men were tortured before they were killed. He also identified some of the soldiers to be as young as 17 and said that a woman had accompanied them as well.
The coup returned the country to full military rule after the country had become a quasi-democracy after the junta – which had been in power since 1962 – carried out elections in 2011.
While Ms Suu Kyi has been sentenced to prison, protests against junta rule have spread onto Myanmar’s streets since the coup.
Civilian militia groups have taken up arms in recent months as the military’s crackdown on pro-democracy protests has turned violent.
The extra judicial killings in Kani Township appeared to be punishment for the growing attacks on the military by the People’s Defence Force, a collective name given for civilian militia groups, in recent months.
The alleged human rights abuses by the Myanmar military are being investigated by the UN. The country’s outgoing UN envoy has said Myanmar is on the verge of a civil war.