Military aircraft dropped bombs and fired on a crowd of people in Kanbulu Township, located in Sagaing Region, who had gathered that morning for the opening of a new town hall, according to media reports.
Guterres condemns attack
UN Secretary-General António Guterres strongly condemned the attack and called for those responsible to be held accountable, his Spokesperson said in a statement.
Mr. Guterres offered his deepest condolences to the families of the victims. He also called for the injured to be allowed urgent medical treatment and access to assistance.
“The Secretary-General condemns all forms of violence and reaffirms the primacy of protection of civilians, in accordance with international humanitarian law,” the statement said.
End the violence
Myanmar’s military seized power in February 2021 following disputed elections the previous November, detaining democratically elected leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, and other top officials.
Thousands of people have been killed since the coup, and the UN continues to speak out against the ensuing repression, human rights violations and abuses.
The Secretary-General reiterated his appeal for the military to “end the campaign of violence against the Myanmar population throughout the country”, in line with a Security Council resolution adopted in December.
Resolution 2669 demands an immediate end to all forms of violence in Myanmar. It further calls for restraint, de-escalation of tensions and the release of all prisoners.
Rights chief ‘horrified’
The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Volker Türk, also issued a statement, saying he was “horrified” by reports of the airstrikes.
“It appears schoolchildren performing dances, as well as other civilians, attending an opening ceremony at the hall in Pazi Gyi village, Kanbalu Township were among the victims. A helicopter gunship then reportedly fired on those fleeing the hall,” he said.
The UN rights chief noted that despite clear legal obligations for the military to protect civilians in the conduct of hostilities, “there has been blatant disregard for the related rules of international law.”
Hope for accountability
He called on all parties to take “all feasible precautions” to protect civilians from the effects of attacks, including by avoiding locating military objectives within or near densely populated areas.
“As I have previously noted, there are reasonable grounds to believe that the military and its affiliated militias are responsible for an extremely broad range of human rights violations and abuses since 1 February 2021, some of which may constitute crimes against humanity and war crimes,” Mr. Turk said.
“I firmly believe the international justice processes now underway will one day hold the military leadership accountable for such crimes,” he added.