05/11/2023, 13.51
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Myanmar’s junta drops a thermobaric bomb in Sagaing

Human Rights Watch reports on the 11 April bombing that killed more than 160 people in the village of Pa Zi Gyi. This kind of weapon uses oxygen to inflict the widest possible damage. Once again, arms and fuel sanctions against Myanmar’s military are crucial.

Yangon (AsiaNews) – In a ruthless attack on 11 April, Myanmar’s military dropped a thermobaric bomb on Pa Zi Gyi, a village in the northern region of Sagaing, killing more than 160 people, this according to Human Rights Watch (HRW) which analysed scores of pictures and videos.

The use of this kind of explosive, which is designed to deliberately enhance the damage, could constitute a war crime.

Since the coup on 1 February 2021, when the military ousted the government led by Aung San Suu Kyi, civilians have been constantly targeted by the country’s armed forces.

Just two days ago, junta warplanes dropped four bombs on a school of 300 students in the village of Htan Taw, damaging the library and school gate, local resistance forces reported.

Just an hour and a half earlier, children crowded the school gate. Carnage was averted because classes ended earlier, witnesses explained.

The use of enhanced weapons bombs against civilians is a violation of international law, HRW explained.

“The Myanmar military’s use of a weapon designed to cause maximum deaths on an area crowded with civilians shows flagrant disregard for human life,” said  Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch.

In thermobaric weapons, the explosive uses oxygen from the surrounding air to generate a high-temperature blast.

HRW experts were able to identify this type of weapon based on the analysis of the wounds sustained by the victims, including 40 children. Some of the people were burnt alive and many bodies were torn to pieces to the point that they were unrecognisable.

Military spokesman Zaw Min Tun claimed responsibility for the attack, saying that it targeted the People's Defence Forces (PDF), the armed group that emerged in April 2021 following the coup and allied itself with the country’s ethnic armed groups to fight the regular armed forces.

Although the civil war in Myanmar is treated as a local conflict, international involvement is evident. Russia and China are the military junta’s top weapons suppliers, making heinous attacks like the one against Pa Zi Gyi village possible.

For this reason, HRW urges foreign governments to “prevent funding, arms, and aviation fuel from going to Myanmar’s military, which continues to commit serous abuses with impunity”.

“The Myanmar junta’s abusive military operations depend on its ability to purchase weapons and materiel,” Pearson explained. Hence, “ASEAN and the UN Security Council both need to reconsider their toothless approaches to Myanmar’s junta and take stronger measures.”

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