October 20, 2023
PHNOM PENH – ASEAN has denounced the reported bombardment of a camp for displaced people in Myanmar’s Kachin State. The attack occurred about ten days ago and purportedly resulted in the deaths of 28 civilians, including at least 12 children.
“We, the member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), are deeply concerned over and condemn the reported bombing that impacted an internally displaced persons camp in the Munglai Hkyet, Kachin State, on October 9, which claimed the lives of many civilians, including children,” it said, in an October 17 statement.
ASEAN reiterated its urgent pleas for an immediate end to all forms of violence, especially those that affect civilians, and for the exercise of the utmost restraint necessary to foster an open discussion leading to a comprehensive resolution of the situation in Myanmar.
“We reemphasise ASEAN’s commitment to assisting Myanmar in finding a peaceful and durable solution to the ongoing crisis through the complete implementation of the five-point consensus for peace, security, and stability in the region,” said the statement.
“The Myanmar military killed at least 28 civilians in an air strike on a displaced persons camp, in an attack that may amount to a war crime,” claimed Amnesty International, in an October 13 statement.
“At least 12 children killed, and a reported 57 people were injured,” said its statement.
According to Amnesty’s report, at about 11.30pm on October 9, the Myanmar military launched an attack that hit the Munglai Hkyet displaced people camp, close to Laiza town in Kachin State, near the border with China.
“Witnesses told Amnesty International that a large bomb exploded near the camp, which was followed by sustained mortar fire from nearby Myanmar military positions,” it said.
It estimated that 150 displaced families reside in the camp, which is situated near several civilian houses in the village of Munglai Hkyet. The camp is about 4.8km from central Laiza, the headquarters of the Kachin Independence Organization/Army (KIO/A), an ethnic armed group that has fought the Myanmar military for decades.
“The Myanmar military denied responsibility in a statement, saying it was an explosion of a site where the KIO/A stored ammonium nitrate.
“That explanation is at odds with consistent witness accounts, which noted the explosion served as the start of a coordinated attack. In addition, the bomb fell on a large open field with regular vehicle traffic, unlikely to be an ammonium nitrate storage area,” the Amnesty report claimed.
Yang Peou, secretary-general of the Royal Academy of Cambodia, expressed his regrets, alongside the ASEAN leadership.
He noted that Myanmar appeared to be continuing on a path of violence, and said the bombing of civilians is a tragedy that should not happen in modern times. The ASEAN bloc is currently strengthening its centrality, but this does not seem to be moving forward, because Myanmar still has significant problems.
“This is a failure of the international community as a whole, in particular the ASEAN community, which has not been able to convince the Myanmar government to implement the ASEAN five-point consensus which was put in place in 2021,” he said.
“At the moment, it seems to be stagnant and possibly getting even worse. As Indonesia holds the rotating ASEAN chair, there seems to be no significant measures or mechanisms in place for a return to normalcy in Myanmar. This is regretful and a waste of time that should be used to find peace,” he added.
As a political observer, Peou called on the ASEAN leaders – as well as others leaders around the world – to work tirelessly to help prevent violence in Myanmar, as well as provide humanitarian assistance to the civilian victims.