Myanmar military accused of continuous airstrikes on Karen State, more than 10,000 civilians displaced

Security forces guard a street in Yangon, April 3, 2021.

The Karen National Union, a Burmese armed group, accused the military on April 3 of using “excessive force” in its ongoing airstrikes, resulting in the displacement of more than 12,000 unarmed civilians and the death of many others, including children.

The Central News Agency quoted AFP as reporting that the armed group Karen National Union (Karen National Union) has been outspoken in its criticism of the military government that staged a coup two months ago, and claimed to provide shelter to hundreds of anti-coup activists.

After the Karen National Union captured a military base in eastern Kayin State late last month and killed 10 army officers, the junta retaliated with air strikes.

The Karen National Union issued a statement on March 3, condemning the junta’s “constant bombing and airstrikes as excessive use of force” between March 27 and 30, “resulting in the death of many people, including children. And that “the air strikes also caused more than 12,000 people to flee their homes, creating a serious humanitarian crisis.”

A spokesman for the military government said the military was only targeting the 5th Brigade, which seized military bases and killed officers by the Karen National Union. It also said that “only airstrikes were launched on that day.”

However, local media and human rights groups in Kayin State have said that there have been many bombings and airstrikes in various parts of the country recently.

Some 3,000 people fled across the Salween River to Thailand last month to seek refuge, but most of them returned to Myanmar last month, with Thai authorities claiming they had returned “voluntarily”.

Youngest killed was 6 years old

A military coup broke out in Myanmar in February, detaining civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi and several government officials. Local watchdog groups noted that tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the country to protest the coup, with the military initially using water cannons to disperse the crowds, but after a week, the military crackdown intensified and began using rubber bullets and live ammunition against people.

Witnesses alleged that the armed forces randomly attacked people in the streets, and some were even killed in their own homes. A total of 536 people have died so far, including at least 43 children killed by the armed forces, the youngest known to be 6 years old.

The family of Khin Myo Chit, a 6-year-old girl, told BBC News that police raided their home in Mandalay in late March and killed her as she ran to her father.

Kim’s sister said, “They (police) kicked in the door, opened it and asked my father if there was anyone else in the house.” She said her father denied it, but the police accused him of lying and started searching the house, at which point Kim Miaoqi ran to her father, “and they shot her and beat her.”

A 14-year-old boy was also killed for no apparent reason, believed to have been shot in or near his home in Wa, and a 13-year-old was shot while playing in the streets of Yangon.

Save the Children, a children’s rights group, also cited reports of a 1-year-old baby being shot in the eye with a rubber bullet, warning that many children may have been injured in the clashes.

Save the Children warned that children’s mental health is affected by the fear, grief and stress they experience in violent conflicts.

Through a statement, the foundation said, “With children witnessing violence and fear, it is clear that Myanmar is no longer safe for children.”