An Adventist Church in Myanmar has been destroyed and a community primary school badly damaged in an air attack on a predominantly Christian village in the country’s hilly south-eastern border Karen State.
The incident happened on June 6 in Khu Don Village Tract, Kawt'ree (Kawkareik) Township, Dooplaya District in the Myawaddy township, which is under the control of the Karen National Union (KNU).
Warrington-based Epiphany Trust has been working with the church in the village for the past 20 years. Its director, Bill Hampson, visited the church last year during a school prize-giving event, and received the news from the village.
He told Premier that at around 1:30 in the morning, it was attacked from the air by a plane from the country’s military dictatorship: “According to local observers, the aircraft dropped a cluster bomb, which is prohibited under the Convention on Cluster Munitions. The explosions resulted in the destruction of the church and severe damage to the school’s roof and doors.”
Since the military seized power in a coup in February 2021, the Myanmar Army (Tamadaw) has destroyed or severely damaged a total of 17 schools in the seven districts under the administration of the KNU, according to Epiphany Trust. But it has launched attacks on all Burma’s ethnic states.
There have been more than 200 reports of air attacks since the beginning of the year. The deadliest airstrike hit the Pa Zi Gyi village in northern Sagaing region in April, killing more than 170 people, including many women and children. (The state lies adjacent to Manipur in India).
“The last three months has seen particularly intense air attacks on Karen State”, commented Bill Hampson.
“Epiphany Trust funds schools in eight Karen villages, two of which have been attacked destroying homes and the village church that I attended exactly one year ago was totally destroyed”, he said.
“There have been casualties in the raids but not nearly as bad as it could have been as few sleep in their homes, choosing rather to go each day to sleep in the jungle or in caves. Recently the Karen armed resistance killed Tatmadaw soldiers, in retribution 19 villagers, including 4 children, were seized and burnt to death”, Mr Hampson added.
Air strikes have become a new and deadly tactic in Myanmar’s civil war since the military ousted Aung San Suu Kyi's elected government. The conflict is now in a stalemate across much of the country, with attacks by air carried out by an air force equipped by mostly Russian and Chinese-made aircraft.