Burma

UPDATED: Three Killed, Chinese National Injured as Myanmar Regime Jets Bomb Mine in KNU Territory

By Hein Htoo Zan 16 November 2022

Three people were killed and eight, including a Chinese citizen, injured when the Myanmar junta’s military launched an air strike on a mining facility in Thapyu Village in Karen State’s Kyar Inn Seik Gyi district on Wednesday morning, according to the Karen National Union (KNU) and local residents.

The Thapyu mine is located about 30 km north of Hpayar Thone Su town. Though no clashes were reported in the area, two military regime jet fighters dropped bombs on the complex at 1:40 a.m., destroying it completely. The area is controlled by the KNU and located in the territory of Division 6 of its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

Though the area is controlled by the KNU, mining businesses operating there have been subject to the investment and operating laws of Myanmar’s successive central governments.

KNU spokesperson Padoh Saw Taw Nee confirmed the Thapyu mining block had been attacked by the junta’s jet fighters.

“It destroyed a smelter factory and two cars. The block is where civilians are working and targeting civilians is a war crime. They are obviously violating international humanitarian law. We are sorry to say that a Chinese citizen was among the injured,” he told The Irrawaddy.

The Irrawaddy asked the Chinese Embassy if it had received any reports of Chinese citizens being killed or injured in the incident, but embassy officials have yet to respond.

According to local residents the Thapyu mining block was officially designated as No. 6 Mining Block by Myanmar regimes before the 2021 coup, and resumed operation just a few days ago.

“Such an act removes any possibility of [the junta and the KNU] improving our relationship. Therefore, in such a situation, we have no choice but to continue our struggle and keep fighting,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee said.

Operations at the Thapyu mining block were launched in 2003 with the permission of the Ministry of Mining under the previous Myanmar military regime, which gave rights to local ethnic Burmese and Karen-run companies to extract antimony and tin, according to Kyar Inn Seik Kyi residents.

“As this area is controlled by the KNU, the Mining Ministry had to deal with the KNU, and developed an understanding and entered agreements with them. When it began in 2003-04, only Thapyu Co. Ltd. was present. Later, other companies were allowed in,” explained a resident.

According to data from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), the Thapyu Co. referred to by residents continues to operate as Thapyu Thar Co. Ltd.

In 2005, pollution of nearby areas by wastewater from Thapyu Thar Co.’s tin-cleansing plant  caused health problems, prompting authorities from both sides to suspend the plant’s authorization to operate. However, the company relaunched its operations in 2013 after re-registering with DICA.

The story was updated at 6:38 p.m. on Wednesday.

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