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ASEAN ‘strongly condemns’ Myanmar’s deadly air attack

This photo provided by the Kyunhla Activists Group shows the aftermath of the air strike in the Sagaing region's Kanbalu Township on April 11. (Photo by AP)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) "strongly condemns" the latest air strike carried out by Myanmar's military on a village, which is reported to have killed up to 100 people, including children, the bloc said in a statement.

The statement from ASEAN on Thursday came a day after the Myanmar junta confirmed the air attack in Pa Zi Gyi Village, Kanbalu Township in the central Sagaing Region and accused the National Unity Government (NUG) of coercing residents into supporting them.

“ASEAN strongly condemns the reported recent air strikes carried out by the Myanmar Armed Forces in Pa Zi Gyi village,” the regional bloc said.

“All forms of violence must end immediately, particularly the use of force against civilians,” the statement added.

Tuesday's attack in the Sagaing area was the deadliest in a recent string of military air attacks since the military under Senior General Min Aung Hlaing removed the government of Aung San Suu Kyi.

Media reports said more than 100 civilians, including children, were killed, when fighter jets dropped bombs on the community hall on Tuesday morning. Witnesses said helicopter gunships began shooting at survivors and hindering rescue efforts.

“This second attack was intended to kill villagers, who had gathered to battle the flames, offer medical aid to survivors, and extract corpses and dismembered bodies for identification and burial,” said Gum Awng, NUG deputy minister of the Ministry of International Cooperation.

Myanmar’s National Unity Government, a parallel administration, called the strike a “heinous act.” The NUG was established by ousted elected lawmakers primarily from the National League for Democracy, which was disbanded by the regime last month.

The attack in Pa Zi Gyi came days after heavy fighting in the southern Karen state sent thousands fleeing across the border into Thailand.

Rights groups say the conflict has killed thousands and led to the displacement of some 1.2 million people across Myanmar.

ASEAN, a 10-member regional bloc that includes Myanmar and has a long-held principle of staying out of its members’ sovereign affairs, is leading diplomatic efforts to end the conflict.

The Tuesday attack came barely a week after ASEAN chair Indonesia said diplomatic progress was being made in Myanmar, despite the continued efforts of its military rulers to quash resistance to their 2021 overthrow of a democratically elected government.

Myanmar has been in turmoil since the 2021 coup, with attacks by ethnic minority armies and resistance fighters challenging the rule of the military, which has responded with air strikes and heavy weapons, including in civilian areas.

The United Nations estimates that some 14,000 people have been arrested and at least 2,000 killed since the military takeover, which plunged the South Asian country into an economic as well as security crisis.

Late last year, the UN Security Council voted in favor of the first-ever resolution on Myanmar in more than seven decades, calling on the military rulers to end violence and release all political prisoners. The 15-member Council urged the junta to "immediately release all arbitrarily detained prisoners," including ousted leader Suu Kyi.

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