Junta Airstrike Hits Wedding in Myanmar’s North, Dozens Feared Dead

Recent Features

ASEAN Beat | Security | Southeast Asia

Junta Airstrike Hits Wedding in Myanmar’s North, Dozens Feared Dead

As the military junta loses ground, it has come to rely more heavily on air strikes to wreak vengeance on resistance-held areas.

Junta Airstrike Hits Wedding in Myanmar’s North, Dozens Feared Dead
Credit: Depositphotos

Yesterday, reports began to emerge of another deadly bombing by Myanmar’s air force, this time on a wedding ceremony in Sagaing Region, which may have killed dozens of people including children.

A report published yesterday in The Irrawaddy, which cited local residents and the Kani People’s Defense Force, a local civilian militia fighting the military, stated that a Myanmar air force jet dropped three 500-pound bombs on a wedding ceremony in Mingin Township at around 8:20 a.m. on Monday morning.

Myanmar Now reported that the wedding celebration in Mataw village was for a female member of an anti-junta resistance group affiliated with the opposition National Unity Government (NUG). Radio Free Asia quoted one local resident as saying that families were attempting to recover the remains of missing relatives but that the Myanmar military was shelling the area. “Junta troops are still firing heavy artillery, preventing anyone from daring to collect the dead bodies in the area,” the resident said. “They are continuously shooting with heavy weapons.”

As is frequent in these cases, reports of the death toll varied. Myanmar Now reported that “at least seven people” were killed in the attack in Mataw, but Radio Free Asia put the number of people killed at 24, with another 30 injured. The Irrawaddy estimated that “at least 27 civilians including three children” had been killed. There are also varying reports as to whether the bride and groom survived the attack.

The Irrawaddy reported that injured civilians “were being treated by medics from local [anti-junta] PDF groups in locations that were undisclosed for security reasons.”

While there is no active fighting in Mingin, the area has become a stronghold of PDF resistance groups over the past two years, as has Sagaing Region as a whole. In a briefing paper released last week, the Special Advisory Council for Myanmar claimed that resistance groups had primary control of seven of the region’s 37 townships, and that junta control was “receding” in 17 more, including Mingin.

This has exposed Sagaing to harsh retaliation from the junta, including from the air. As it has lost ground over the past year, particularly around the periphery of Myanmar, the military administration has come to rely more heavily on air attacks, especially on areas under partial or full resistance control. These attacks have not spared civilians, including children, nor hospitals, schools, and religious buildings.

Such attacks are now occurring with a numbing frequency, including in Sagaing Region, part of Myanmar’s central dry zone that has been mostly free of conflict for decades prior to the 2021 coup. On May 9, an airstrike in Saw Township of Magwe Region killed a reported 14 civilians and injured 30. This came after two large attacks in June of last year, in which fighter jets killed up to 10 civilians near Nyaung Kone village. Another airstrike in April 2023 near Pazigyi village killed up to 80 civilians, including women and schoolchildren.

As a result of junta air strikes and infantry assaults, Sagaing is home to a larger number of displaced civilians than any other state or region, according to the United Nations.

In the first four months of 2024, more than 359 civilians, including 61 children, were killed in junta airstrikes, according to the Nyan Lynn Thit Analytica research group. That compares to 63 for the whole of 2021, 260 in 2022, and 613 in 2023. A further 756 people were injured in air strikes in the first four months of this year.

These devastating attacks have prompted activists to call for Western countries to impose harsh sanctions on the Myanmar air force and the dozens of foreign companies and individuals that have helped the military procure jet fuel. While the U.S. government last year imposed sanctions on entities linked to jet fuel supply chains, the Myanmar Air Force seemingly retains the capacity to rain down its vengeance from the skies – with terrifying effect.