A junta airstrike that reportedly killed nearly 50 people celebrating the Kachin Independence Organization’s anniversary (KIO) on Sunday night has been condemned as a war crime by the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).
Three regime warplanes launched the strike on a music concert being held to mark the KIO’s 62nd anniversary at a village near Hpakant, Kachin State. The jet-fighters attacked Ginsi village, located 3 kilometers from Hpakant in an area controlled by KIA Brigade 9.
Among those killed were high-ranking officials of the KIA and KIO, famous Kachin ethnic singers, and civilians. The attack also left about 100 people injured.
Founded on Oct. 25, 1960, the KIO is a powerful Kachin political organization whose armed wing, the KIA, has been fighting the Myanmar government and military for greater state autonomy. Following the coup last year, the KIA has been launching military operations alongside anti-regime forces in Kachin State. The KIO refused to join the junta’s peace talks this year, branding them illegitimate.
KIA/KIO spokesperson Colonel Naw Bu said that the regime knows full well that such anniversaries are marked by large numbers of Kachin people and the airstrike was intended to target civilian crowds.
“They were shooting at civilians, not at the enemy. This is an evil act, and this is a war crime. We are grieving over the deaths of our people,” he said.
The KIA/KIO has not yet issued an official statement on the number of casualties but local media outlets and residents report that nearly 50 people were killed in the strike.
Renowned Kachin singers Aurali and Galau Yaw Lwi were among those killed on the spot while other Kachin ethnic celebrities were injured, according to locals. The KIA confirmed that the commander of its Brigade 9 was also killed in the attack.
Residents of Kachin State and KIA/KIO offices flew the Kachin national flag at half-mast to mourn the lives lost in the airstrike.
Colonel Naw Bu said the attack had slammed the door to peace between the KIA/KIO and the Myanmar military.
“The hatred felt by the Kachin people for the military has just soared. The revolution will therefore only get stronger. The Kachin people and KIA will redouble their efforts in the Spring Revolution to uproot the military dictatorship,” Colonel Naw Bu told the Irrawaddy.
Captain Zay Thu Aung, an air force pilot who defected after the coup, told The Irrawaddy that the jet-fighters responsible for the strike were probably either Yak-130s or MIG-29s as both are capable of night-time attacks.
He said the jets were likely to be from Tada-U in Mandalay Region as this is the closest regime airbase to Hpakant.
“At night, it would have taken them just 40 minutes maximum to get to the target,” he added.
On Monday, Myanmar’s shadow National Unity Government (NUG) and its parliamentary wing, the Committee Representing Pyihtaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), condemned the attack and called on the United Nations and the international community to take swift and effective action against the junta.