Airstrikes by the Myanmar military on a village in the northwest of the country on Thursday killed at least eight civilians, including two children, according to members of a rebel ethnic minority and independent media reports.
They said the attack on Khoafu village, north of Thantlang, a major town in Chin State near the Indian border, also left 20 people injured. This came three days after General Min Aung Hlaing, head of Myanmar’s ruling military junta, declared in a speech marking Armed Forces Day that the military needed to take decisive action against forces challenging his control.
Independent online media in the country reported on the aerial bombing, but there was no immediate reporting of it in state-controlled media.
Myanmar has been in turmoil since the military overthrew the elected government of a civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi in February 2021, sparking widespread public opposition. After peaceful demonstrations were suppressed with lethal force, many opponents of military rule took up arms, and large parts of the country are now embroiled in conflict.
The pro-democracy resistance that arose allied itself with many ethnic minorities, including the Chen, who had been waging an armed struggle for decades seeking greater autonomy. The military has sought to quell such opposition with air and artillery strikes, and civilians have often been the victims. The army has displaced more than a million people since taking over.
Two jet fighters dropped four bombs on the village of Khuafu, about 3 miles north of Tantlang, killing a group of civilians, including That’s two kids.
He said many of the more than 60 homes in the village had been destroyed by fire.
Another member of the group staying at its camp in Thantlang said a Mi-35 helicopter machine-gunned the village while the jet fighters were dropping bombs. According to the list of the dead he received, five of them were female and three were male, and their ages ranged from 6 to 40 years. He spoke to the Associated Press on condition of anonymity because he feared military reprisals.
According to the Association for Assistance to Political Prisoners, an exile group that monitors human rights in Myanmar, at least 3,182 civilians have been killed by security forces since the military took power.
In January, military aircraft bombed the headquarters of the Chin National Front in Thantlang, killing five members of its armed wing, the Chin National Army, and damaging a clinic and other buildings.
There is currently no active fighting near Tantlang between resistance forces and the army. More than 10,000 residents of Tantlang fled the town when heavy fighting broke out in late 2021, some staying temporarily in nearby villages including Khoafu and others seeking shelter across the border in Mizoram, India.
The resistance forces in Myanmar were able to prevent the army from firmly controlling large areas of the country, but they have a major defect in weapons, especially in the face of air attacks.
Supporters of the resistance advocate banning or restricting the sale of jet fuel to Myanmar to undermine the military’s advantage in air power. Several Western countries have already imposed arms embargoes on the military government, and last week the United States and Britain imposed new sanctions targeting individuals and companies involved in the supply of jet fuel to Myanmar.
On Wednesday, the military government took another big step in its ongoing campaign to cripple its political opponents, dissolving dozens of opposition parties including that of ousted leader Suu Kyi for not meeting a registration deadline before a promised election.
Suu Kyi’s National League for Democracy, one of 40 parties the military-appointed election commission ordered to dissolve, has already announced it will not register, denouncing the election as sham.
On Thursday, the spokesperson United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres He said he was “deeply concerned” by the news of the dissolution of the parties.
“Any attempts to undermine democratic institutions and processes will only deepen the crisis and delay a return to a fully democratic and inclusive Myanmar,” said spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.
Dujarric said the Secretary-General “renews his call to neighboring states and other Member States to urge the military leadership to commit to inclusive political processes” and reiterates his call for the immediate release of all arbitrarily detained prisoners, including Suu Kyi.