Myanmar junta bombs rebel meeting, killing 16, including child

Anti-junta forces were meeting at a monastery when the junta attacked by air, witnesses say.
By RFA Burmese
2024.05.10
Myanmar junta bombs rebel meeting, killing 16, including child A junta aerial bombardment burned down a monastery in Kyaukhtu district of Saw township in Magway region on May 9, 2024.
Yaw Ah Linn Tan Media

Updated May 10, 2024, 04:31 p.m. EDT.

Myanmar junta airstrikes on a gathering of opponents of military rule killed 16 people, including a child, and injured 25, residents and an anti-junta militia member said on Friday.

The anti-military activists were meeting in a Buddhist monastery in Magway region when the aircraft attacked, said a resident of the area who identified himself as Ko Lin. A child was among the dead in the Thursday morning attack in Ah Kyi Pan Pa Lun village in Saw township, he said.

“The monastery was hit with firebombs. Eleven or 12 people were caught in the fire,” he told Radio Free Asia.

The dead had been cremated and the wounded were being treated, according to groups helping the victims.

Rescuers and residents told RFA that the death toll could rise, as several people remained missing and bodies had yet to be recovered.

"As far as I know, the number of deaths are increasing," said one rescue worker, who declined to be named due to security concerns. "There are still people who are missing, as we can't locate their bodies."

Military 'relentlessly' attacked

In images posted online, rebel fighters and residents can be seen gathering body parts amidst smoke and rubble. Many of the corpses could not immediately be identified, due to the damage caused to heads, limbs and torsos.

Other images showed charred trees, burning structures, and zinc plating scattered in the bombing.

A resident of the area who managed to escape unharmed and identified himself as Ko Lin said junta forces "relentlessly" shelled and fired on the site.

"Despite the bomb falling nearby, I remained unharmed," he said, adding that he had no opportunity to flee because "the sound of the plane came just as bullets hit the area."

RFA tried to contact the junta’s spokesperson, Maj. Gen. Zaw Min Tun, by telephone for more details but he did not answer. RFA was also unable to reach Myo Myint, the junta's minister of social affairs and spokesperson for Magway region.

Hotbed of opposition

Myanmar’s central dry zone, made up of the Sagaing, Magway and Mandalay regions, has become a hotbed of opposition to military rule from the majority ethnic Burman community. Pro-democracy activists took up arms after the military overthrew an elected government in 2021, forming militias known as People’s Defense Forces (PDF) and allied with ethnic minority insurgent groups that have been battling for self-determination in border regions for decades.

The anti-junta forces have been on the offensive since late last year, making significant gains in several areas.

The junta has used heavy firepower in its battles against PDF fighters in central Myanmar, at times leveling villages and killing numerous civilians, survivors have said. 

Three attack runs

A member of Saw township’s PDF said the jets attacked from an air base in Tada-U in Mandalay Division.

“It seems that the members were being targeted when they were meeting in the monastery, but civilians were also there,” said the militia member, who declined to be identified.

He said a jet made three attack runs over the village, dropping six bombs in all.

Thursday’s attack on Ah Kyi Pan Pa Lun was the most deadly in the district since the war began, residents said.

According to data compiled by RFA, from the coup until the end of March 2024, military airstrikes and artillery fire have killed at least 1,677 civilians and injured 3,263 others.

Translated by RFA Burmese. Edited by Kiana Duncan and Mike Firn.

This story has been updated to include descriptions of the site after the bombing, as well as comments from rescue workers and residents who witnessed the attack.

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