Junta Airstrikes Kill Over Ten People and Displace Hundreds in Upper Myanmar

By The Irrawaddy 22 December 2021

Over ten civilians and resistance fighters were killed by junta airstrikes in Sagaing and Magwe regions, while hundreds of local residents have been displaced, after the Myanmar military deployed helicopter gunships against local People’s Defense Force (PDF) groups.

Military regime forces attacked Yay Myat Village in Sagaing’s Ye-U Township and Hnan Khar Village in Magwe’s Gangaw Township with the gunships, PDF groups and local residents told The Irrawaddy.

On Monday, the regime launched an airstrike involving five gunships on Yay Myat Village, the second such attack in less than a week.

Junta-controlled media, in their reports about the fighting, did not mention the airstrikes on the village. Instead, they said: “Security forces raided Yay Myat Village on December 20 at noon in response to a tip by some villagers that the KIA (Kachin Independence Army), extremist members of the NLD (National League for Democracy) and so-called PDF (People’s Defense Force) terrorists were holding a meeting at the village to carry out terror acts. There was an exchange of fire, and six people were captured dead and some arms and ammunition were seized from them, and the PDF torched some houses.”

However, residents of the village said that it was the junta airstrikes that set the houses on fire and damaged them, forcing around 500 locals from Yay Myat and nearby villages to flee their homes.

“The military no longer dares to come by road as their troops have often been attacked with mines. They have to airlift troops and supplies into the area. Since November, there has rarely been a day when we don’t hear the sound of aircraft,” said a spokesman for a local PDF group.

Junta helicopter seen over Hnan Khar Village.

Last Friday afternoon, two helicopter gunships attacked Hnan Khar Village in Gangaw Township with machine guns, while around 100 junta soldiers were airlifted into the village by two other choppers, according to Gangaw PDF.

Meanwhile, a military jet fighter was also circling above the village.

Friday’s attack came as several leaders of local PDFs were holding a meeting at the village hall to discuss taking action against illegal logging and drug dealing in the area, a Gangaw-PDF leader told The Irrawaddy.

Nine civilians and PDF fighters were confirmed killed in the airstrikes and more people are still unaccounted for, said the PDF leader.

“It seems that they had received reports that we would be meeting at the village hall and that is why it was targeted with airstrikes,” added the Gangaw-PDF leader.

Two Hnan Khar villagers were reportedly killed by gunshots to their heads after being detained and tied up by junta soldiers. “They were arrested while working their fields and tending cattle outside the village. Junta troops torched houses and silos as they left the village,” said a Hnan Khar villager.

Junta helicopter seen over Hnan Khar Village.

The regime said it raided the village in response to reports that leaders of the ethnic group the Chin National Front and local PDFs were gathering at the village. The junta claimed that the bodies of six dead PDF members were recovered and that weapons were also seized.

Local residents said that the youngest of the nine victims was just 15, while some of the others were only 17 or 18 years old.

“As the weapons are aircraft-mounted automatic ones, they are more powerful [than hand-held weapons],” said a resident who witnessed the airstrike. “Bullets went through the walls of houses and ripped up the ground.”

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