An airstrike by Myanmar’s military on a refugee camp in the northernmost Kachin State on Monday night killed at least 29 people including children, injuring more than 50, local media reported, citing a spokesman from an ethnic minority militia in the state.
Around 10 out of those killed at the camp for internally displaced people were children, said the spokesman of the Kachin Independence Army, which controls the area where the camp is located, according to Radio Free Asia Burmese’s report on Tuesday
A drone or aircraft of the Myanmar military dropped a bomb on the refugee camp, situated some 3 kilometers from the KIA headquarters, the report said, citing the spokesman.
Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun on Tuesday denied a bomb was dropped, saying the explosion was likely caused by the KIA.
Fighting between the ruling military and ethnic minority militias as well as pro-democracy forces since the 2021 coup have driven 1.6 million people from their homes, leaving them internally displaced, according to the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The Monday attack was the deadliest on the area controlled by the KIA since the junta’s bombing of a community event in October last year killed over 60 people, according to local media Myanmar Now.
In April, the military conducted an airstrike on the Sagaing region of central Myanmar, killing over 160 people.
Additional news reporting from the Associated Press on October 11, 2023
Myanmar Witness, a non-governmental organization that collects and analyzes evidence related to human rights incidents, said it confirmed the camp was damaged but that it was still investigating the cause.
The military claims it targets only armed guerrilla forces and facilities, but there is considerable evidence that churches and schools have also been hit and many civilians killed and wounded. Artillery is frequently used.
The United States condemned the attack in a statement Tuesday. “The United States will continue to support the people of Burma and all those working peacefully to support their aspirations for peace and inclusive democracy,” the State Department wrote.
The Kachin are one of the stronger ethnic rebel groups and are capable of manufacturing some of their own armaments. They also have a loose alliance with the armed militias of the pro-democracy forces that were formed to fight army rule.
In October 2022, the military carried out airstrikes that hit a celebration of the anniversary of the founding of the Kachin Independence Organization, the political wing of the Kachin Independence Army, near a village in Hpakant township, a remote mountainous area 167 kilometers (103 miles) northwest of Laiza. The attack killed as many as 80 people, including Kachin officers and soldiers, along with singers and musicians, jade mining entrepreneurs and other civilians.
“Killing us en masse like this is a criminal act. The international community needs to know and take action. I would also like to ask the U.N. organizations to take action,” KIA spokesperson Naw Bu said Tuesday.
U.N. Deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq in New York highlighted the problems of displaced persons in Myanmar, noting that Kachin state “has seen an escalation in fighting over recent months, driving a surge in displacement, as well as worsening needs and protection concerns.”
He said the attack “underscores the dangers faced by the nearly two million people who are now displaced in Myanmar, including 1.7 million people who have fled their homes as a result of conflict and insecurity” since the military’s 2021 takeover.