Myanmar’s military-ruled government on Tuesday denied reports that it carried out an airstrike on a school in the country’s troubled north-central region, killing at least seven children was accused of mutilation.
Major General Zaw Min Tun, a spokesman for the ruling military council, admitted at a news conference in the capital Naipitaw that fighting took place last Friday in the Tabayin settlement in the Sagaing region. However, he blamed the government’s armed opponents for the casualties, which included six adult villagers in addition to children taking refuge in the school.
Witnesses told The Associated Press and other media that two helicopters opened fire with machine guns and heavy weapons at a school in a Buddhist monastery in the village of Let Yat Kon, attended by 240 students from kindergarten to grade 8, who were nearly Taught by 20 volunteer teachers.
A school administrator said that after about an hour of continuous firing, about 80 soldiers, firing with their weapons, stormed the monastery grounds. The administrator, who used the pseudonym March March so he would not be recognized by authorities, said that about 30 children were injured, and 20 were taken by soldiers along with three teachers.
The number of children killed in the airstrikes appears to be the highest in a day since the military seized power in a coup in February last year, toppling the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The army’s takeover triggered large-scale nonviolent protests across the country, but when the army and police responded with deadly force, armed resistance erupted in cities and rural areas.
Fighting has been particularly fierce in Sagaing, where the military has launched several offensives, burning villages in some cases, and displacing more than half a million people. Tabayin has six camps hosting displaced people, also known as Depayin.
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Zaw Min Tun told reporters on Tuesday that the incident happened as soldiers went to investigate information that an ethnic rebel group in Let Yat Kon were members of the Kachin Independence Army’s armed anti-government People’s Defense Force and their allies. The People’s Defense Force was established last year to oppose military rule.
He said members of armed groups took the villagers to the monastery before the fight.
âThey forced people to live under the main building of the monastery. And then they started firing on the security forces using the villagers as human shields. The army opened fire on them,â said Jae Min Tun.
He said the army rescued those hiding in the monastery after the armed groups fled, and when soldiers found two children seriously injured, they were immediately taken by helicopter to a military hospital. He said other injured villagers were taken to nearby hospitals.
He alleged that the account of the attack on the school was made just before the annual meeting of the UN General Assembly, where Myanmar’s violent crisis will be debated.
His account of the incident was challenged by the school administrator.
âWhat Jaw Min Tun said at the press conference were words contrary to the truth. It is our job to teach the students every day. No one forced us to go to the monastery and there was no armed group in the village,â Mar Mar said on Tuesday. Said on the phone.