A village in Sagaing region, Myanmar, was attacked by a military jet and a helicopter gunship on Tuesday morning. According to witnesses, at least 53 people were killed, including 15 women and children, but the BBC has not been able to verify the numbers. The village was hosting a ceremony to mark the opening of a new People’s Defence Forces (PDF) office, and was targeted because it opposed the military government. The military has increasingly relied on air strikes since seizing power in February 2021 because its ground troops are finding it difficult to move around on roads where they are often ambushed or hit by mines and improvised explosive device (IEDs).
The PDFs are volunteer anti-coup militias waging an armed campaign against the military in various parts of Myanmar. Thousands have been killed in the civil war, and an additional 1.4 million displaced. Nearly a third of the country’s population is also in need of humanitarian aid, according to the United Nations. The military government has been increasingly relying on its Russian and Chinese aircraft to bomb opposition-controlled villages, and the airstrikes can inflict much higher casualties among non-combatants.
There were at least 600 air attacks by the military between February 2021 and January 2023, according to a BBC analysis of data from the conflict-monitoring group Acled. The exiled National Unity Government, formed after the coup, says that these attacks killed 155 civilians between October 2021 and September 2022. The deadliest single incident so far in the civil war, if the death toll at Pa Zi Gyi is confirmed, will be an illustration of the military’s brutal tactics, and the extent to which it is willing to inflict harm on its own citizens.