In this photo taken on March 9, members of the ethnic rebel group Ta'ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) patrol near Namhsan Township in Myanmar's northern Shan State. (Photo: AFP)
At least 29 people including 13 children have been killed and some 56 people wounded in a military strike on a camp for displaced people in northern Myanmar.
The junta has been accused of carrying out multiple deadly attacks on civilian targets since the Feb. 1, 2021 coup. The latest attack was reported in Mung Lai Hkyet camp near Laiza town in Kachin state around 11.30 p.m. on Oct. 9, as reported by AFP.
The news agency quoted Colonel Naw Bu of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) saying, “We did not hear any aircraft” but are investigating what kind of strike hit the camp.
The spokesman for the ethnic rebel group told AFP they were “looking into whether the military had used a drone to target the camp near the town on the Chinese border.”
Local media images purporting to show the aftermath of the strikes had rescuers working by torchlight to recover bodies from wooden debris.
At least 10 bodies were shown laid out on towels and tarpaulins on the ground, AFP reported.
"The attack happened when people were sleeping around midnight"
Colonel Naw Bu said that 42 people were being treated at a hospital near Laiza.
Photos and videos of the dead bodies and medics carrying the wounded civilians were also shared by local activists on social media.
Laiza is the headquarters of the KIA, which controls swathes of Kachin state — home to the world's largest jade mines — and has clashed with the military for decades.
The region has seen heavy fighting in the wake of the 2021 putsch, with the junta accusing the KIA of arming and training the newer "People's Defense Forces" that have sprung up to battle the junta.
Mung Lai Hkyet village lies about three kilometers from Laiza. It was established about 40 years ago and many internally displaced people (IDP) who fled their homes in 2011 and since 2021 have been staying there, according to local sources.
Khon Ja, a Catholic and prominent activist from the Kachin Peace Support Network, said the attack happened when people were sleeping around midnight.
“It is mass killing targeting civilians,” she wrote on Facebook on Oct.10.
It is the second major attack in the conflict-torn state. Some 80 people were killed at a concert in A Nang Pa village in Hpakant township in aerial bombings by three fighter jets on Oct. 23 last year.
"Crackdown on dissent that has seen tens of thousands arrested and more than 4,100 killed"
The UK-based Kachin National Organization in a statement on Oct. 9 strongly condemned “such acts of terror, committing terrorism, violating the basic principles of humanity and disregarding the rights and safety of innocent civilians."
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights found a "seemingly endless spiral of military violence," it said in its latest report on the country.
Through interviews and open source data, it found "a sharp rise" in serious human rights violations" including the increase... of incidents in which 10 or more individuals were killed".
More than 93,258 people have been surviving inside IDP camps in areas controlled by the KIA and other groups in Kachin state for many decades, according to the UN report released in August.
More than 10,000 people have been displaced in Kachin state since the military's ousting of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021.
The coup sparked huge protests and a bloody crackdown on dissent that has seen tens of thousands arrested and more than 4,100 killed, according to the local monitoring group Assistance Association for Political Prisoners.
The KIA has been publicly supporting Myanmar’s exiled National Unity Government and aiding anti-junta local militias since the military coup in 2021.
The state’s 1.7 million people are mainly Christians, including 116,000 Catholics.
Myanmar has an estimated 53.5 million people and 87.9 percent of them are Buddhists while 6.2 percent are Christians.