At least 20 children were dead already. The other 113 were likely adults, including women. Their relatives soon came to recover their bodies since that was all they could do. But their bodies were shattered, with heads on one side, legs on another side and hands nowhere to be found. That was the severity of an attack by Myanmar’s military junta in a small town in the Sagaing region of the country.
Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of the country’s shadow Government, said an attack by the military on Tuesday caused the death of at least 133 people, including women and children.
Reports say an aircraft of the military junta dropped at least two bombs on villagers who were gathered for a meeting in Pazigyi to celebrate the opening of a local administrative office. The celebration coincided with the Thingyan New Year celebrations.
Following the attack, Irrawaddy, a local TV channel, shared videos and pictures from the scene, showing shattered bodies on the ground, destroyed vehicles, and damaged buildings.
We are responsible, the military says
Zaw Min Tun, the spokesperson of the military Junta, late Tuesday, told Myawaddy, a military broadcast channel, that it carried out the airstrike to restore peace and stability to the region. He added that the armed People’s Defence Force, backed by the National Unity Government, was targeted in the attack.
“During that opening ceremony, we conducted the attack. PDF members were killed. They are the ones opposing the government of the country, the people of the country,” Zaw Min Tun said.
“According to our ground information, we hit the place of their weapons’ storage and that exploded and people died due to that,” he added. On the level of civilian casualty, Mr Tun said they were supporters of the PDF who were there at the time of the airstrike.
Following Tuesday’s operation, local rescue operators are reluctant to continue with work as the military jets are still flying over the town. However, there had been no reports of further airstrikes as of Thursday morning.
“People are dying like dogs or cows,” an eyewitness speaks
An eyewitness, who managed to survive the airstrike, told CNN that the villagers did not notice the presence of the military jets because most of them were at the event. He said the aircraft, a Mi35 helicopter, came as early as 8 a.m. and fired a few minutes later.
“When I arrived at the scene we tried to search for people still alive,” the eyewitness said. “Everything was terrible. People were dying (as they were being transported) on motorbikes. Children and women. Some lost their heads, limbs, and hands. I saw flesh on the road.”
He said he saw a lot of people coming to search for their kids and relatives, crying and screaming, adding that he lost four of his family members.
Describing the situation in the country under the leadership of the military junta, he said it was getting worse and there was nothing the people could do to help themselves.
“People are dying like dogs or cows. We don’t have any weapons to compare with what the military has. We need the help of the international community,” he said.
The world calls out Myanmar’s military junta
The United Nations, Human Rights groups, and the United States have called out Myanmar’s military junta for killing the people it ought to protect.
Volker Turk, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, in a statement, said the military has failed in its obligation to protect civilians and has rather committed hostilities and blatantly disregarded international laws.
“There are reasonable grounds to believe that the military and its affiliated militias are responsible for an extremely broad range of human rights violations and abuses since 1 February 2021, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Volker Turk said.
“I firmly believe the international justice processes now underway will one day hold the military leadership accountable for such crimes,” he added.
The UN Special Rapporteur on the Situation of Human Rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, said it was time for those supplying the military with weapons to reconsider their steps, as they are used to attack innocent people, including children.
“The Myanmar military’s attacks against innocent people, including today’s airstrike in Sagaing, is enabled by world indifference and those supplying them with weapons,” He said. “How many Myanmar children need to die before world leaders take strong, coordinated action to stop this carnage?”
The military junta took over power from Aung San Suu Kyi in a military coup in February 2021 and was later sentenced to 33 years in jail in a secret trial. Since then, thousands of people have been killed as the government crack down on protesters, journalists, and activists. Some opposers of the government have even been executed.