Myanmar junta soldiers are warning local residents and aid group workers against providing medical treatment to people who were injured during a bombing of a concert in Hpakant township, Kachin state, last weekend, or holding large prayer services for those who were killed in the attack.
“They aren’t allowing funeral services for the victims who died,” a Hpakant resident said. “They said that they were going to arrest anybody who gives medical treatment to the injured victims. They won’t even allow prayer services. They have issued strong orders that only family members can be with the dead, restricting other people from joining. Their orders are that vicious.”
Troops threatened to arrest survivors or anyone who helped treat the injured under the country’s Unlawful Association Act, which carries a minimum two-year sentence, the resident said.
RFA reached out to the junta’s local administration officials and officers at the area military base but received no response.
About 300 civilians and soldiers from the Kachin Independence Army were gathered at the event last Sunday night when junta planes attacked. The Kachin Independence Organization, the political association representing ethnic Kachins in northern Myanmar, reported this week that 63 people died in the attack.
An aid worker said the number killed had risen to 66 after three people later succumbed to their injuries. RFA Burmese reported that junta soldiers blocked access to the site of the attack, preventing the injured from being treated at a local hospital.
The junta has said the strike was in response to attacks against its forces in the region. The KIA is one of several ethnic armies in Myanmar that, along with dozens of militias known as People’s Defense Forces, are fighting the military junta, which deposed a democratically elected government in February 2021.
Another Hpakant town resident who witnessed the bombing said that the number of casualties is expected to rise. He described a gruesome scene of victims in and around the concert stage where the audience had gathered to hear music in celebration of the KIA’s 62nd anniversary.
“Some people were blown away in pieces. Flesh and heads were blown away, to over 100 feet in distance,” the witness said. ”Some people were blown apart too badly to identify who they were.”
“Those who escaped that night, like me, are still in shock. We can’t believe what happened. Some even aren’t sure if they died or if their soul is alive – they are that traumatized by the attack.”
The relief volunteer who told RFA that three additional victims died on Oct. 26 said they may have lived had they been treated at a hospital.
“The dead were civilians,” the volunteer said. “Even in our village, we are not allowed to have a big funeral service. We are not allowed to even assemble a tent for the funeral. We can only have a brief funeral service for a female victim who died in our village today.”
The KIO said they were continuing to try to identify victims and that the death toll could increase.
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