23 Nov 2022
How children were killed while they learnt
On the afternoon of 16 September 2022 Let Yet Kone village (လက်ယက်ကုန်း), Tabayin Township (ဒီပဲယင်းမြို့နယ်), Sagaing Region (စစ်ကိုင်းတိုင်းဒေသကြီး), was attacked by two helicopters for approximately one hour. During the attack, a school and monastery were affected. Reports suggest that between 11 and 14 people were killed, including volunteers at the school and at least six children. Additional anti-SAC channels reported that seven children were killed. The official number of people either injured or killed has not yet been confirmed.
Figure: Image widely shared on social media of a damaged structure at 22.679376, 95.400381, shared online on 17 September 2022 (Source: Khit Thit Media).
Figure: A map of Let Yet Kone village (လက်ယက်ကုန်း) and Namakha (နမခ) located in Sagaing Region (စစ်ကိုင်း). (Map created using Datawrapper).
Irrawaddy media reported that State Administration Council (SAC) troops arrived at Let Yet Kone village around 1300 local time with four helicopters. It is claimed that two Mi-35 aircrafts fired at a secondary school in the vicinity of the Maha Dhamaramthi Monastery. Allegedly, around 80 SAC soldiers left the other two helicopters – Mi-17s – and raided the village, while the other aircrafts attacked. Additional reporting states that between 15 and 20 people were taken alive by SAC troops, in addition to the bodies of the child casualties. Their bodies were either buried or cremated seven miles away in Ye-U township, presumably to destroy evidence of child casualties. Reports state that the injured were treated at the nearby Ye-U hospital and some of the injured reportedly lost limbs.
Figure: Different angles of destruction of one building identified by Myanmar Witness to be located at 22.679200, 95.400131 (Source: Khit Thit Media).
The SAC responded to these allegations by accepting the event’s occurrence, but alleged that People’s Defence Forces (PDF) and members of the Kachin Independence Army (KIA) were stationed in the village, using villagers as human shields. The SAC also claimed that KIA and PDF forces were moving weapons, and that they discovered and seized mines and explosives from the village during their raid. Two female teenagers also reiterated the SAC’s claims in a press conference report live on a SAC-affiliated media channel before they were returned back to the village. Locals in Let Yet Kone village reportedly denied the presence of PDF and KIA troops in the area, stating that the teenagers’ statements were forced and full of SAC ‘propaganda’.
Sagaing region has experienced intense conflict since the February 2021 coup, with numerous reports and verified instances of arson and armed attacks led by the SAC. Myanmar Witness has covered these occurrences in depth in the Fire Map.
Based on open source analysis and the verification of user-generated content (UGC) emanating from this location, Myanmar Witness has determined that it is almost certain the SAC military conducted this attack. This investigation conducted extensive geolocation processes to verify Let Yet Kone village as the location where the incident occurred. Analysis of additional UGC and media reporting was relied upon to ascertain likely casualty figures.
Figure: Geolocation of a structure from Figure 3 in Let Yet Kone village (လက်ယက်ကုန်း).
Figure: Further Geolocations of structures in Let Yet Kone village.
The attack on Tabayin School is part of an emerging trend that shows a pattern of increasing recklessness towards the safety of children, especially around schools. Education should be safe and accessible throughout Myanmar, regardless of ongoing conflict.
As this incident demonstrates, heavy fighting in and around educational facilities, including both aerial and ground attacks, place children’s lives at risk. This attack comes at a similar time to the recent politically-motivated mutilation of a teacher, reported on by Myanmar Witness. Politically-motivated attacks on schools are of great concern. It is essential that the safety of educational sites is restored and any other attacks are investigated so that those responsible can be held to account.
For more information, download the report PDF.
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