A junta military airstrike on a popular gold prospecting area in Myanmar’s Kachin State killed one man and injured more than 30 other people, some critically, forces loyal to the country’s parallel National Unity Government told RFA.
Three fighter jets from Myitkyina Air Force Base opened fire near two villages on the banks of the Irrawaddy River on Tuesday afternoon. Thousands of locals mine gold from the river there, using bamboo rafts.
An eyewitness who did not want to be identified for safety reasons said 23-year-old Myo Thet Kyaw died on the spot after being hit in the head.
“There are 12 seriously injured people, four of them in critical condition and more than 20 with minor injuries,” he said, adding that the critically injured were taken to Myitkyina General Hospital for treatment.
The junta has not issued any statement on the incident, and RFA’s calls to Kachin State’s junta spokesman and social affairs minister Win Ye Tun went unanswered.
Residents said there was no fighting in the area at the time of the airstrike, and they don’t know the reason for the attack.
Some gold and jade mining companies in Kachin State pay taxes to the Kachin Independence Organization whose military wing has fought a fierce campaign against junta forces. The KIO has refused repeated invitations to join junta-brokered peace talks without the participation of the National Unity Government which was unseated in a February 2021 coup.
On Oct. 23, 2022, a junta airstrike on a Kachin Independence Organization concert in Kachin State’s Hpakant township killed more than 60 people.
On Dec. 17, 2022, the junta bombed the iron ore mining block of a Chinese company in the state’s Waingmaw township, according to residents. It’s not known whether the mine owner was paying taxes to the KIO.
RFA called Kachin Independence Organization Information Officer Col. Naw Bu to ask if the gold mining project attacked on Tuesday was connected to the KIO but calls went unanswered.
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