January 31, 2023


Teachers at a Myanmar school hit by a military helicopter attack have described the horror of the attack, which killed 12 children.
Teachers at a Myanmar school hit by a military helicopter attack have described the horror of the attack, which killed 12 children.

Teachers at a school in Myanmar hit by a military helicopter strike last week have described the horror of the attack — including seeing a wounded child screaming in agony, begging to die.

Friday’s violence at a school in Let Yet Kon village in Sagaing region left 14 people dead — 12 of them children, the youngest seven years old.

The United Nations, European Union and rights groups have condemned the incident, with Myanmar’s military saying it has targeted rebels who are using civilians as human shields.

Some children were playing outside while others were in class when two helicopter gunships flew in and opened fire with machine guns and heavy weapons, a teacher said.

“One girl hit the back of her head… there was a lot of blood coming out,” the teacher said in a phone interview with AFP, describing frantic efforts to provide first aid.

Students scrambled to take cover under tables as smoke billowed around, added the teacher, who AFP did not name due to safety concerns.

Then helicopters came down and soldiers stormed the school grounds and ordered everyone inside to come out, the teacher said.

Some children, their legs badly injured, left a trail of blood as they crawled out, the teacher said, while others were too badly injured to leave their hiding places.

Myanmar has been in chaos since a military coup seized power in February last year, with around 2,300 civilians killed in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.

The Sagaing region in the country’s northwest has seen some fierce fighting and entire villages have been burned during clashes between anti-coup fighters and the military.

The mother of an injured student begged soldiers to let her into the classroom where her seven-year-old son was bleeding to death, the teacher said.

“The soldier shouted at him: ‘Do you want me to shoot you?’,” the teacher said.

Her son was bleeding so much that “he was almost drowning”, they added.

Later, the mother and her dead son are reunited — he’s missing an arm and a leg.

“The boy was still alive and he said: ‘Mom, it’s very painful, kill me, kill me, I can’t bear the pain’,” the teacher said.

The tearful mother begged the soldiers not to take her son’s body, but they insisted he was not dead and took him to hospital, the teacher said.

“The mother screamed: ‘Let me have a funeral for my baby.'”

The teacher later saw the soldiers throwing the children’s dismembered body parts and bloody clothes into sacks of rice.

A second teacher described children rushing inside the house as the helicopters approached, only for a large explosion to hit the building.

“I saw a child hurt, and he screamed for help. He was covered in blood and he kept screaming, asking for help but I didn’t dare go out to help him,” a second teacher told AFP by phone. said

As the shooting continued, the second teacher decided to leave the building, taking 20 students and hiding under a large tamarind tree as the injured boy continued to scream for help.

AFP could not independently verify the teachers’ accounts.

Many in the village of Late Yet are still anxiously awaiting news of some of the students who have been missing since the attack.

There are no immediate plans to reopen the school, which had about 250 students and more than 20 teachers.

The junta said it sent troops by helicopter to the village after receiving reports that fighters from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) – an ethnic rebel group – and a local counter-insurgency militia were moving weapons into the area. .

The military accused the rebels of using civilians as human shields and said they had recovered mines and explosives from the village.

“Security personnel provided necessary treatment and arranged for the patients to be shifted to the nearest hospital,” the military said in a statement.

Junta spokesman Zhao Min Tun accused the KIA on Tuesday of taking villagers to a monastery and then firing on troops from there.



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