Myanmar Junta Airstrike Apparent Laws-of-War Violation

(Bangkok) – On the evening of October 23, 2022, the Myanmar military carried out an airstrike on a music concert in Hpakant, Kachin State, organized by the opposition Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) to commemorate the ethnic organization’s 62nd anniversary. Local media reported that at least 60 people were killed and 100 injured, and that the Myanmar military blocked access to medical care for those harmed. The concert was held at a base also used for military training by the KIO’s armed wing, the Kachin Independence Army (KIA).

The following quote can be attributed to Elaine Pearson, Asia director at Human Rights Watch:

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.

For over a year and a half, the junta has carried out grave abuses against the millions of people who oppose military rule, amounting to crimes against humanity and war crimes. How high does the death count need to reach before governments around the world impose consequences that will impact the junta’s behavior?

This horrific attack should trigger renewed efforts by concerned states to enforce tougher sanctions on the junta, including cutting off its access to foreign currency revenues as well as arms and aviation fuel. The United Nations Security Council should urgently pass a resolution imposing a global arms embargo on the junta and referring the situation to the International Criminal Court. Southeast Asian leaders meeting this week and at the ASEAN Summit in November should signal their support for such efforts to bring justice to the victims of the junta’s abuses across the country.

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