Following yesterday’s airstrike against a peaceful Kachin ceremony in Hpakant that killed 50, the junta’s media machine went into spin mode. It stated that the attack did not violate the Geneva Conventions and called verified reports that civilians were killed “a rumor.” The junta claimed its attack targeted Kachin Independence Army (KIA) members and its associated People’s Defense Force (PDF). It went on to state that the site targeted by the airstrikes in Hpakant was a place where only gem businessmen conducted “illegal business” with Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) and KIA protection and financial support. Colonel Naw Bu, the KIA Information Officer, told DVB that the junta airstrike was a “heinous act.” He confirmed that at least 50 people, including artists, businessmen, and KIA officers, were killed.
The Kachin News Group (KNG) reports that up to 80 dead have been recovered from the scene of the attack. It also states that the Burma Army was blocking access to the area until 7:30 p.m on Oct. 24. This prevented more than 100 injured people from receiving medical treatment. KNG states this means the death toll may continue to increase if urgent medical care is not given to those who attended the Kachin ceremony in Hpakant. Human Rights Watch condemned the junta attack on the Kachin.
“The Myanmar military’s airstrike on hundreds of concertgoers in Kachin State is an apparent violation of the laws of war, which prohibit attacks causing indiscriminate or disproportionate civilian harm. Myanmar military operations in ethnic minority areas have long been characterized by a near total disregard for civilian lives and property and a failure to abide by international law. The military’s entrenched impunity underlines the need for an international investigation of those responsible for this attack and the many others committed by security forces since the February 2021 military coup,” said Elaine Pearson, the Asia Director at Human Rights Watch.
The United Nations and international missions have issued statements condemning the junta attack. The UN requested emergency medical care be given to the injured. The National Unity Government (NUG) expressed its “great sadness” for its Kachin brothers and sisters. It urged the international community, including the UN, to take effective action immediately.
Three allied Ethnic Armed Organizations — the Arakan Army (AA), the Ta’ang National Liberation Army (TNLA) and the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army (MNDAA) — issued condolences to the victims’ families and claimed the attack was a “cowardly act.” The allied EAOs stated that the junta continues to carry out attacks against innocent people every day in states, regions and communities across Burma. It urged the international community to take rapid action. The Karenni National Progresive Party (KNPP) and the All Burma Students Democratic Front (ABSDF) also expressed condolences and condemned the attack.