Junta bombs Myanmar village again where earlier strike killed 200

No one was injured as most residents had either been killed or were in hiding.
By RFA Burmese
Junta bombs Myanmar village again where earlier strike killed 200 Residents flee the Myanmar junta's offensive in Sagaing's Kanbalu township, Tuesday, April 18, 2022.
Citizen journalist

Myanmar’s junta on Thursday again bombed a village in northern Sagaing region where jet fighters had attacked only a week earlier, killing some 200 residents, according to sources.

Sagaing has been a hotspot of resistance to junta rule. The April 11 air raid on the opening ceremony of a public administration building in Kanbalu township’s Pa Zi Gyi village was one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in Myanmar since the military seized power in a February 2021 coup and drew condemnation from across the globe.

On Thursday, despite the blowback from the international community, the junta carried out another airstrike on Pa Zi Gyi. 

Initial reports said no one was injured in the latest bombing, as most of the village’s residents were either killed or still in hiding from last week’s attack. But sources told RFA Burmese that many of the remaining buildings were damaged.

Aircraft made three passes over Pa Zi Gyi, beginning at around 2:30 p.m., said a resident of Pa Zi Gyi, who spoke to RFA on condition of anonymity, citing security concerns.

“They dropped bombs and also fired at the village, but no villagers were hurt,” he said. “We had evacuated them all by then. They just fired at an empty village.”

As many as 5,000 people from Pa Zi Gyi and seven nearby villages were forced to flee their homes amid the latest attack, sources said.

Six bombs

Ko Myo, a resident of Kanbalu township, said the fighter jet “dropped six bombs” on the village on Thursday.

“The explosion was quite strong,” he said. “Smoke is rising into the sky from the village. I think the houses are burning now.”

Ko Myo confirmed that no one was hurt in the attack as the villagers had already fled to safety.

“This attack looks like one of the junta’s area-clearing operations,” he said, adding that troops arrived at the village at around noon on Wednesday, but only entered it Thursday afternoon.

“Their jet fighter flew over twice and an Mi-35 helicopter flew over once for scouting while they were entering the village. I think it was to check if there was any resistance in the village to protect their soldiers.”

Kyo Myo said that the military column that entered the village was Shwebo Training Unit-13, which had come up from the city of Mandalay, around 195 kilometers (120 miles) to the south. RFA has not been able to independently verify the claim.

‘Precision’ attack

Attempts by RFA to reach Aye Hlaing, the junta spokesman for Sagaing region, regarding the situation in Pa Zi Gyi village went unanswered Thursday.

However, the military confirmed in a statement last week that it had carried out a “precision” attack on Pa Zi Gyi on April 11 because members of the PDF had gathered there and “committed terrorist acts.” It vowed to continue to clear resistance forces from the area.

Junta Deputy Information Minister Major Gen. Zaw Min Tun told the military-controlled broadcast channel MRTV that those killed in the April 11 strike were members of the PDF, not civilians, and that the large number of casualties was the result of a rebel weapons cache exploding during the operation.

But rescue workers have disputed that account. They say the attack on the site was deliberate and thorough, beginning with a jet fighter bombing run and followed by an Mi-35 helicopter strafing the area, much like the strike on Thursday.

Desperate for water, food

Since last week’s attack, more than 600 residents of Pa Zi Gyi who have been sheltering under tarps in the nearby jungle are in desperate need of food and drinking water, said a villager who declined to be named for fear of reprisal.

“It’s difficult for them to even cook rice [when they have it] as they have to fetch water from streams some distance away,” the villager said. “If they are sick, there is nothing to help them … They can’t sleep well, as they have to be vigilant. They have to stay ready to run, as they don’t know when the junta will attack them.”

Among the displaced are the elderly, sick, children and pregnant women, he said.

A child sleeps on a mat in the jungle in Sagaing's Kanbalu township in Myanmar, Tuesday, April 18, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist
A child sleeps on a mat in the jungle in Sagaing's Kanbalu township in Myanmar, Tuesday, April 18, 2022. Credit: Citizen journalist
Nay Zin Latt, a representative of Kanbalu township for the deposed National League for Democracy, told RFA that the refugees are “constantly anxious and scared.”

“Since they were attacked by planes, they tremble and hide every time they hear the sound of the airplanes,” he said. “It’s a very terrible situation they are in. But it’s worse for the children, the elderly and those with poor health, as the current weather is very harsh, even for a healthy person.”

Members of the Kanbalu anti-junta People’s Defense Force paramilitary said that the situation in and around Pa Zi Gyi is “very tense.” They said the military is focusing on assuming control of the area on the ground and in the air.

“That’s why they are carrying out area clearing operations here – I think they came to scare our people,” said one official with the Kanbalu PDF. “They came in strong with two [troop] columns.”

The official noted that the junta has increasingly relied on airstrikes as the conflict in Sagaing rages on.

“But you can’t win the entire war just by controlling the air,” he added.

Thursday’s attack came as more than 1,000 villagers from northern Shan state’s Nawnghkio township were forced to flee fighting between the military and the Mandalay PDF. 

The two sides have been engaged in clashes for much of the past two weeks and those who fled on Thursday brought to 4,000 the number of people displaced from the township since the latest fighting began.

According to a statement issued Wednesday by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, more than 1.8 million people have fled their homes due to armed conflict in Myanmar. In October, the United Nations announced that at least 500,000 people have fled fighting in Sagaing since the coup.

Translated by Myo Min Aung. Edited by Joshua Lipes and Malcolm Foster.


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