Dozens killed and injured in military attack on Myanmar refugee camp

The camp near the Chinese border houses thousands of people displaced by decades of conflict.

A view of Kachin rebel area near the Chinese border. It's green and hilly. There's a soldier silhouetted to the right.
People in Kachin have endured years of conflict, which has intensified since the 2021 coup [File: Soe Than Win/AFP]

At least 29 people, including children, have been killed in a military raid on a camp for internally displaced people in northern Myanmar near the border with China.

Local media reported that the camp, near the town of Laiza in Kachin state, was hit late on Monday night.

The camp is a few kilometres from the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army, which is involved in a decades-long conflict with the Myanmar military.

Debris following the attack on the refugee camp in northern Myanmar
Debris in the refugee camp In Laiza after the military attack [Social media video via Reuters]

Khon Ja, a local activist with the Kachin Peace Network Civil society group, told the Reuters news agency she had visited the local hospital and was told 29 people had been killed and 59 injured.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Kachin Human Rights Watch, who asked to be identified only as Jacob for security reasons, told The Associated Press that 19 adults and 13 children from the camp were killed.

Photos on social media showed rescuers retrieving bodies in the darkness and piles of bamboo and other debris.

Writing on X, previously known as Twitter, Aung Myo Min, the human rights minister of the National Unity Government (NUG), condemned the attack as a “war crime”. He said some 56 people had been injured. The NUG was established by democratically-elected politicians removed from office in the February 2021 coup.

The attack was condemned by the United States.

US State Department Spokesperson Matthew Miller said Washington was “deeply concerned” about the attack and the number of civilians killed.

“We strongly condemn the military regime’s ongoing attacks that have claimed thousands of lives since the coup and continue to exacerbate the region’s most severe humanitarian crisis,” Miller said in a statement, noting that more than 1.6 million people had been internally displaced since the military’s power grab.

The KIA’s Colonel Naw Bu said the armed group was investigating what kind of strike had hit the camp.

“We did not hear any aircraft,” he told the AFP news agency, saying they were looking into whether the military had used a drone in the attack.

Myanmar was plunged into crisis after the military seized power triggering a widespread rebellion. Violence has engulfed vast swathes of the country of 53 million people with the military accused of the indiscriminate use of air raids, artillery shelling and arson forcing hundreds of thousands from their homes.

In October last year, military air raids on a KIA-organised festival in Kachin killed at least 60 people.

Kachin officers and soldiers, musicians, jade-mining business owners and other civilians were among the dead.

Source: Al Jazeera