Myanmar’s junta says its attack on a monastic school that left 11 children dead in Depayin Township, Sagaing Region, on Friday was in response to an insurgent strike while resistance groups say it was child murder.
Bo Kyar Gyi, the leader of Bo Kyar Gyi People’s Defense Forces (PDF), formerly known as Galon PDF, said: “If they kill us I can accept it since we are fighting them. But they have murdered children at a school. It is unacceptable.”
Two regime Mi-35 helicopters attacked the school in Let Yet Kone village on Friday and seven children were killed immediately while 17 others, including three teachers and 14 children, were injured. Two more children died when ground troops raided the village. Regime forces took the seven bodies and the injured to a traditional medicine hospital in neighboring Ye-U Township. Two more later died.
The junta’s Ministry of Information stated that the troops had launched an operation against the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) and resistance groups in the village. It said resistance fighters and National League for Democracy “extremists” were hiding in the monastery before the attack.
Bo Kyar Gyi told The Irrawaddy that there were no KIA nor resistance troops based in the area.
Resistance troops were guarding the school when the two Mi-35s attacked and three were killed in the airstrike, according to Depayin resistance groups.
Approximately 80 troops were when dropped into the village from four transport helicopters and surrounded the school.
The junta claimed the KIA and resistance groups were using residents as human shields.
“They killed the children on the spot and arrested others with their teachers as hostages. Then they left for Ye U,” Bo Kyar Gyi said.
The incident has sent shockwaves around other monastic and community-funded schools in Sagaing and Magwe regions where the conflict with the junta is heavy.
Ma Tresa, a member of the Myaung Education Network which has established self-funded schools with the community in the township, said the Depayin incident had shocked the region and raised questions about how to keep children safe.
The civilian National Unity Government’s Ministry of Women, Youth and Children Affairs, Ministry of Education and Ministry of Human Rights on Sunday condemned the targeted attack and called it an inhumane and brutal war crime. It said it has been documenting the junta’s serious human rights violations, including Friday’s attack in Depayin to bring justice.