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Myanmar: 29 civilians killed in likely air strike on IDP camp, Kachin

On the night of October 10th, 2023, the residents of Mung Lai Hkyet village, in Myanmar’s Kachin state, awoke to explosions and tremors as bombs reduced their homes to rubble.

In one of the deadliest attacks on civilians since the military coup in 2021, 29 civilians were killed, including up to 13 children, and another 57 injured. Most were internally displaced persons, who had escaped previous attacks on their homes.

Photo: A man walks through the wreckage of the Munglai Hkyet IDP camp, Awng Ja (Simsa Kasa Multimedia)

Local sources suggest the village was targeted by a plane or drone, rather than ground artillery, and place the blame squarely on the military government, who have denied any involvement.

Since the coup, on February 1st 2021, AOAV has recorded 1,408 incidents of explosive weapons use in Myanmar, and 2,793 civilian casualties (1,016 killed, 1777 injured). 

55% (769) of incidents of explosive weapons use are attributed to non-state actors, in particular the People’s Defence Forces, Ethnic Armed Organisations, and local defence forces, but 80% (2,236) of civilian casualties are attributed to the military government. 

Perpetrator statusIncidentsCivilian casualties
Non-State Actors769343
State and Non-State Actors10

Explosive weapons use in Myanmar since February 2021

Following the coup, the military government has regularly targeted populated locations with explosive weapons: villages account for the vast majority of recorded incidents of the military government’s explosive weapons use, 64% (361), as well as the majority of resulting civilian casualties, 64% (1,426).

Public gatherings, which account for only 1% (6) of the military government’s explosive attacks, are the second most affected location in terms of civilian casualties, with 9% (193) of civilian harm occurring in these locations. 

LocationIncidentsCivilian casualties
Public gathering6193
Place of worship22132
Urban residential3587
No information3028
Multiple (urban)418
public building115
Agricultural land913
Police station17
Armed base274
Commercial premises23
Humanitarian infrastructure12

Myanmar military government’s explosive weapons use since 1st February 2021

Ground-launched weapons account for the majority of civilian harm caused by the military government’s use of explosive weapons in Myanmar, having killed and injured 50% (1,122) of the 2,236 civilian casualties. However, air-launched weapons have, on average, caused more civilian harm per incident, killing and injuring an average of 6.69 civilians per attack. 

Launch methodIncidentsCivilian casualties
Multiple types22135

Myanmar military government’s explosive weapons use since 1st February 2021

Myanmar, which in 2021 was the ninth most impacted country for civilian harm from explosive weapons, saw the sixth highest level of civilian casualties in 2022. Civilian casualties rose by 178% last year, from 353 recorded in 2021 to 980 in 2022 – the highest level of civilian harm reported since 2010, and largely due to the military’s response to intensified resistance and the growth of local People’s Defense Forces.

AOAV’s casualty figures represent the lowest of estimations in terms of the number of people killed and injured by explosive weapon use. In an effort to quantify the explicit harm caused by specific explosive weapons, AOAV solely records incident-specific casualty figures, as reported in English-language media.

AOAV condemns the use of violence against civilians and the use of explosive weapons in populated areas. All actors should stop using explosive weapons with wide-area effects where there is likely to be a high concentration of civilians.