October 31, 2023

This is an update from the Myanmar Campaign Network – an Australian national coalition formed following the 2021 coup in Myanmar, comprising human rights organisations, international aid NGOs, Myanmar diaspora organisations, trade unions and faith-based organisations.

Myanmar’s military launched an airstrike on Mung Lai Hkyet camp for internally displaced persons in Laiza, in the northern state of Kachi on 9 October.

Mung Lai Hkyet camp. Photo: Awng Ja

Amnesty International’s weapons expert assessed that the Myanmar military almost certainly used an unguided bomb, with the size of the crater and observed damage consistent with the largest aerial-delivered bombs known to be in the inventory of the Myanmar military.

This indiscriminate attack which killed approximately 29 civilians, including 11 children under 16, and injured 57, amounts to a war crime.

The Tragic Toll

The single bomb blast that flattened nearby buildings – including a church, preschool and many homes, was followed by artillery fire from Myanmar military positions. The victims suffered devastating injuries from the blast wave, including fatal head wounds, organ exposure from lacerations, and the complete pulverisation and removal of limbs. The camp, which was home to an estimated 150 displaced families, was destroyed.

Laiza town serves as the headquarters for the rebel Kachin Independence Army, situated northeast of Mandalay, Myanmar’s second-largest city.

Conflict Escalation Since Military Coup

As the Myanmar military controls only 15-20% of the territory and can’t win a war on the ground, military forces have significantly escalated their airstrikes on civilian targets. Airstrikes in some regions have increased more than 300 percent in the past year, from an average of eight airstrikes per month in 2021 to 32 airstrikes per month in 2023.

This alarming trend has led to a devastating toll, with 352 reported civilian fatalities from airstrikes in the first eight months of 2023, surpassing the total for both 2021 and 2022 combined.

Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, told the General Assembly: “The junta continues to attack the people of Myanmar with the relentless bombing of villages, hospitals, schools, and camps for internally displaced persons.”

He spoke of further human rights violations noting that security forces have executed civilians in custody, “at times in mass killings.” They have “burned, beheaded, dismembered, and disfigured bodies in an apparent attempt to terrorize the civilian population.”

Urgent Call for Sanctions on Aviation Fuel

In light of the escalation in airstrikes, there have been growing calls to impose sanctions on aviation fuel to limit the military’s ability to carry out such devastating attacks.

Andrews told the General Assembly: “Sanctions targeting aviation fuel and key financial institutions relied on by the junta are potent measures that could help alleviate the suffering of the people of Myanmar and push the country back towards the path to democracy,”

MCN Call For Australian Action

In addition to sanctions on aviation fuel, MCN calls for Australian sanctions on Myanmar’s lucrative state-owned enterprises, whose bank accounts are under junta control.

MCN also calls for sanctions on the key state-owned banks Myanma Foreign Trade Bank (MFTB) and Myanma Investment and Commercial Bank (MICB) that facilitate payments for those State-owned enterprises.

Immediate actions are crucial to prevent the junta from obtaining foreign funds and limit the junta’s ability to purchase the jets and aviation fuel used to terrorise civilians.

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