Civilian death toll jumps 7-fold in Myanmar in November

The junta turned to more airstrikes as it lost control territory on the ground.
By RFA Burmese
2023.12.07
Civilian death toll jumps 7-fold in Myanmar in November A person injured in an artillery strike is seen near Par Hsin Kyaw gate at the exit of Laukkaing township, Shan state, Myanmar, Nov. 11, 2023.
(Citizen journalist)

The civilian death toll in wartorn states in Myanmar jumped seven-fold in November, largely due to airstrikes by the junta in populated areas as part of fighting with ethnic rebel groups and People’s Defense Force units, data compiled by Radio Free Asia shows.

As the junta lost control of several areas on the ground over the past month, the military turned to the skies to fight their enemies, especially in Shan, Kayah, Chin and Rakine states and in the Sagaing region.

In total, 196 civilians were killed and 228 were injured in airstrikes in these areas in November, compared with 28 killed and 105 injured in October. 

The highest civilian death toll was in Shan State, in the country’s north, where 60 civilians were killed and 44 were injured as Operation 1027, named for Oct. 27, the day it started, intensified there. 

“Civilian casualties will increase with escalation of conflict as long as the junta uses airstrikes and heavy weapons,” a spokesman for the Ta’ang Women’s organization, which monitors the military conflict in northern Shan state, told RFA Burmese.

The second-highest death toll occurred in the Sagaing region, where 44 civilians were killed and 21 were injured.

Among the dead was a 22-year-old woman from Ngar Yant Oh village in the region’s Myaung township, who was killed when a bomb from a fighter jet hit her house, a resident there said on condition of anonymity for security reasons.

“We do not know what kind of bomb came from the fighter jet,” the resident said. “She was killed when the bomb dropped near her house.”

The resident said the bombardment on the village occurred even though there was no nearby armed conflict. 

ENG_BUR_DeathToll_12072023.2.jpg
Displaced persons take cover from an airstrike by Myanmar junta planes in Karenni state on Nov. 15, 2023. (Karenni Humanitarian Aid Initiative)

Kayah state was third-highest in civilian casualties, with fighting around Loikaw city intensifying since “Operation 11.11”, which started Nov. 11.

The military deliberately targeted civilians there, Aung San Myint, secretary of the Karenni National Progressive Party, told RFA. 

“[The junta] regularly conducted artillery attacks and air force bombardments against internally displaced people living in camps in the forests,” he said. “They put pressure on us by targeting civilians.  It is their military tactic.” 

RFA attempted to contact junta spokesperson Maj. General Zaw Min Tun for comment, but he could not be reached. However, the junta made a press release on Nov. 29 saying that they never targeted civilian areas.

Kyaw Zaw, the spokesperson of the office of the National Unity Government, made up of former lawmakers who were ousted by the 2021 coup and their allies, said the shadow government was collecting data about human rights violations committed by the military.

“Such attacks by the [junta] have proved that they are committing war crimes,” he said. “We have documented these incidents. These documents could be used as evidence for both local court trials and in the international court of justice.”

According to RFA data, the junta has killed 730 civilians and injured 1,292 more in aerial attacks and heavy weapon shelling from January to November 2023.

Translated by Aung Naing. Edited by Eugene Whong and Malcolm Foster.

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