Around midnight on Monday, a suspected drone strike by the Myanmar junta targeted a village near the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) in Laiza, northern Myanmar, resulting in the tragic deaths of nearly 30 internally displaced persons (IDPs).
The Myanmar army initiated the attack at 11:25 pm on Munglai Hkyet village, located approximately two miles from Laiza, along the border between Kachin State and China. The village was hosting around 500 IDPs in a camp.
According to a report by Myanmar NOW, as of 8 am on Tuesday, KIA spokesperson Col Naw Bu reported 29 casualties and 56 injuries. Among the wounded, 44 were receiving urgent medical attention at a local facility. Tragically, children and elderly individuals were among the victims.
Rescue efforts were ongoing at the time of the report, with search teams still looking for additional casualties. This incident marked the deadliest attack on KIA territory since the junta’s bombing of a community event in A Nang Pa, Hpakant Township, in October of the previous year, where over 60 individuals lost their lives.
Since the 2021 military coup that ousted the elected government of Myanmar, many regions of the country have become embroiled in a broader civil conflict. The military has increasingly employed airstrikes against towns and villages under opposition control since taking power.
The exiled National Unity Government (NUG) has accused the junta of carrying out the attack on the camp, characterizing it as both a “war crime” and a “crime against humanity.”
According to Kachin officials, the armed forces have intensified their assaults on areas administered by the Kachin Independence Organisation (KIO) in the past year. This escalation is attributed to the growing support for other insurgent groups fighting against the military government among the Kachin population.
In contrast, Junta spokesman Major General Zaw Min Tun has denied the military’s involvement in the attack. He stated that the army does not conduct operations in the area and suggested that the destruction might have been caused by stockpiled explosives.
The Kachin Independence Army (KIA), the armed branch of the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO), stands as one of Myanmar’s largest and most formidable insurgent factions. It has engaged in intermittent conflict with the central government since 1960, with a sustained resurgence in hostilities since a ceasefire collapsed in 2011.
Following the military coup, the junta has regarded the KIA as a substantial threat. This perception arises from the KIA’s provision of weapons and training to newly formed insurgent groups throughout the country that are actively resisting military rule.