BANGKOK – Myanmar’s military-ruled government on Tuesday denied it carried out an air strike on a school in the country’s volatile north-central region that left at least seven children dead, alleging. forcing the media to distort the truth.
Major General Zaw Min Tun, spokesman for the ruling military council, acknowledged at a press conference in the capital Naypyitaw. that there was fighting last Friday in the town of Tabayin in the Sagaing region. However, he blamed armed opponents of the government for the casualties, including six adults in the village in addition to the children sheltering at the school.
Witnesses told the AP news agency and other media that two helicopters fired machine guns and heavy weapons at a school in a Buddhist monastery in the village of Let Yet Kone with 240 students from the sample. teachers to grade 8 taught by about 20 volunteer teachers.
A school administrator said that after about an hour of continuous shooting, about 80 soldiers stormed the monastery campus, shooting. The manager, who used the pseudonym “Mar” so as not to be identified by the authorities, said about 30 children were injured, and 20 were taken away by soldiers along with three teachers.
The number of children killed in the air strike appears to be the highest in a single day since the army seized power in a coup last February that toppled the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi.
The military takeover sparked mass nonviolent protests across the country, but as the army and police responded with force, armed resistance broke out in cities and rural areas. village.
Fighting was particularly fierce in Sagaing, where the army launched a number of raids that, in some cases, burned villages and displaced more than half a million people. There are six camps for displaced people in Tabayin, also known as Depayin.
Zaw Min Tun told journalists on Tuesday that the incident happened when soldiers went to check information that there were members of the armed anti-government People’s Self-Defense Force and their allies from Kachin Independence Army, an ethnic rebel group, in Let Yet Kone. The People’s Self-Defense Force was formed last year to oppose military rule.
He said members of armed groups herded villagers into the monastery before the fighting.
“They arrested people under the main building of the monastery. And then they started shooting at the security forces while using the villagers as human shields. The army fired back at them,” said Zaw Min Tun.
He said the army rescued people hiding at the monastery after armed groups fled, and when soldiers found two seriously injured children, they were immediately taken by helicopter to a military hospital. the. Other injured villagers were taken to nearby hospitals, he said.
He alleges that the documents about the school attack were released on the eve of the annual meeting of the United Nations General Assembly, where the violent crisis in Myanmar will be debated.
His account of the incident was disputed by the school administrator.
“What Zaw Min Tun said in the press conference is contrary to the truth. Teaching students every day is our job. No one forced us into the monastery and there were no armed groups in the village,” Mar said by phone on Tuesday.