Human Lives Human Rights: In a devastating incident, the Myanmar military executed an air strike on the Mung Lai Hkyet displacement camp, situated near Laiza in Kachin State. The assault, causing the deaths of at least 28 civilians, raises alarming concerns of a potential war crime.
At approximately 11:30 pm, witnesses reported a large bomb explosion near the camp, followed by sustained mortar fire from nearby military positions. The camp, housing about 150 displaced families, stands in close proximity to civilian homes in Mung Lai Hkyet village, approximately three miles from Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A).
This ruthless attack exemplifies the Myanmar military’s complete disregard for civilian lives and is the latest in a series of indiscriminate assaults on civilians since the 2021 coup, many of which may qualify as war crimes.
The international community must address the ongoing horrors in Myanmar. Urgent action, including a long-overdue arms embargo by the UN Security Council, is essential to prevent further civilian casualties. Shocking images and videos from the aftermath depict a single massive blast that leveled numerous buildings, including a church, preschool, and homes, leading to fires.
The blast’s catastrophic impact resulted in overpressure and fragmentation injuries, causing fatal wounds and mutilation of limbs. The scale of the damage suggests the use of the Myanmar military’s largest aerial-delivered bombs. The probability of an unguided bomb, an inaccurate and inappropriate weapon near civilians, is high.
Despite consistent witness accounts contradicting the military’s claim, they deny responsibility, attributing the explosion to a KIO/A ammonium nitrate storage site. This assertion is inconsistent with the open field and regular vehicle traffic where the bomb fell, suggesting a coordinated attack rather than an accidental explosion.
Under international humanitarian law, such indiscriminate attacks, failing to distinguish between military objectives and civilians, constitute war crimes. Human rights organizations are urging the UN Security Council to impose a comprehensive arms embargo and refer Myanmar to the International Criminal Court for justice against those responsible for international crimes.
Since the coup in February 2021, the Myanmar military has increasingly relied on air strikes to target civilians. The KIO/A, part of Myanmar’s ethnic armed organizations, has been in a non-international armed conflict with the military for decades. Reports from Amnesty International in 2022 revealed widespread attacks on civilians, including air strikes, arbitrary detentions, torture, extrajudicial executions, and the destruction of villages. The international community faces mounting pressure to take decisive action against the ongoing atrocities in Myanmar.