BAccording to local press reports, at least 60 people have been killed in a heavy military airstrike in northern Myanmar. The aim of the attack was therefore a ceremony by the rebel organization Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), which celebrated the 62nd anniversary of its existence with a concert on Sunday evening.
In addition to military leaders, a singer, several musicians and a well-known actor are said to be among the victims. “We have lost our people, our artists, our brothers and sisters. I will never forget this terrible action and you have to pay for it,” said an eyewitness to the dpa news agency. According to the information, there are said to be many seriously injured, so that the number of deaths could continue to rise. According to observers, this is one of the heaviest military attacks since the military coup on February 1, 2021.
The military reportedly attacked the ceremony with three warplanes. The Kachin News Group posted a video on Facebook purporting to show the aftermath of the attack. Destroyed wooden huts and motor scooters could be seen on it. The KIO campaigns for the rights of the predominantly Christian ethnic group, the Kachin. It is the political arm of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), one of the country’s oldest rebel armies.
Since Myanmar’s independence from British colonial rule, the Kachin have repeatedly fought against the military for more independence. In 2011, a ceasefire that the organization had signed with the then-ruling military junta in 1994 broke down. Since another military coup in February 2021, the KIA has intensified hostilities and supports the nationwide popular uprising against military rule.
However, the municipality of Hpakant is best known for its rich but also dangerous jade mines. In 2020, one of the worst mining accidents in the country’s history occurred there, killing more than 170 people. “This is not a war zone. Our people just enjoyed a concert for an ethnic commemoration, but the military attacked anyway,” former MP Aung Hein Min told dpa.
According to the broadcaster Democratic Voice Of Burma (DVB), the celebrations took place in the territory of the ninth brigade of the KIA. Accordingly, some Kachin had criticized the celebrations because of the ongoing fighting. According to the online magazine Frontier Myanmar, however, there have been hardly any military conflicts in Kachin State recently. Rather, the background to the attack is likely to be KIA support for anti-coup rebels in the Sagaing region.
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