Tuesday’s airstrike conducted by the Myanmar military is believed to have resulted in the deaths of over 100 people, making it one of the deadliest incidents in the ongoing civil war. According to survivors who spoke to the BBC, they have so far recovered 80 bodies, but anticipate that the number will increase.
Photo Credit: AP
The United Nations has expressed condemnation of the attack, which targeted a village located in the north-western Sagaing region. Since taking power in February 2021, the military has increasingly resorted to using air strikes against their opponents.
General Zaw Min Tun, the spokesperson for the military junta, confirmed that they were responsible for the attack and chose to target Pa Zi Gyi due to the village holding a ceremony for the opening of an office for their local volunteer defence force.
These forces, referred to as People’s Defence Forces or PDFS, are fighting an armed campaign against the military in different regions of Myanmar. Communities in Sagaing have been some of the most resolute in their resistance to military rule.
Due to the increasing number of ambushes on army convoys on roads, the junta has resorted to utilizing air power on a wider scale, targeting symbols of resistance against their rule such as schools, health clinics, and even entire villages. This “scorched earth” campaign aims to weaken the persistent resistance they are facing in many parts of the country.
Villagers in Pa Zi Gyi Face Horror as Military Drops Bomb and Opens Fire
According to a resident of Pa Zi Gyi who spoke to the BBC, a military jet flew over the village at around 7:00 am local time on Tuesday and dropped a bomb on the hall where community leaders were gathered. This was followed by a helicopter gunship attacking the village for 20 minutes. Later, the aircraft returned and opened fire on those attempting to collect the dead.
The village was crowded with people from nearby communities who had gathered for a ceremony. After the airstrike, residents uploaded videos showing the gruesome aftermath, with dismembered bodies lying on the ground and several buildings on fire. They can be heard shouting in the videos, calling out for survivors and searching for victims of the attack.
The villagers stated that they attempted to seek shelter in nearby As there were so many dismembered bodies scattered amidst shredded clothing and burnt motorbikes, counting the casualties was a challenging task for the villagers.
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Turk, stated that the military has blatantly disregarded its legal obligation to protect civilians during hostilities. He added that there are strong indications that the military and its affiliated militias are responsible for a broad range of human rights violations and abuses since February 1, 2021, some of which could amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity.
DEADLY CIVIL LAW
The civil war has claimed thousands of lives and displaced over 1.4 million people. The United Nations estimates that almost a third of the population requires humanitarian assistance.
An analysis conducted by the conflict-monitoring group Acled (Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project) indicates that between February 2021 and January 2023, the military carried out at least 600 air attacks. The junta has been increasingly relying on Russian and Chinese aircraft to bomb villages controlled by opposition groups, resulting in a higher number of non-combatant casualties.
According to the National Unity Government, which was formed after the coup, 155 civilians were killed in these attacks between October 2021 and September 2022.
In October, at least 50 people were killed when air force jets dropped three bombs on a concert organized by an ethnic insurgent group in Kachin state. The previous month, an airstrike on a school in Let Yet Kone village in central Myanmar killed at least five children and injured several others. If the death toll at Pa Zi Gyi is verified, it will be one of the deadliest incidents in the ongoing civil war.
Last month, Gen Min Aung Hlaing, the head of the military government, stated that the regime would respond decisively to what he described as “acts of terror” by armed resistance groups.