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Depayin School Massacre a War Crime, Myanmar’s Parallel Govt Says

The body of a young victim of an air strike on a school building in Depayin Township in Myanmar's Sagaing Region is prepared for funeral on Sept. 17, a day after the attack by a Myanmar military helicopter. / AFP

The Ministry of Human Rights of Myanmar’s parallel National Unity Government (NUG) said the Depayin school massacre provided vivid evidence that the junta is openly and continuously contravening international humanitarian law and committing war crimes.

At least 12 people including seven children have been confirmed killed and many others were injured during the targeted attack on a school in Let Yet Kone Village in resistance stronghold Sagaing Region’s Depayin Township, the ministry said in a statement issued on Sunday, in which it released the identities of those killed.

One of the dead has not yet been identified because only body parts, which were placed in rice sacks, remained, the ministry said.

It said soldiers of the “terrorist” Myanmar military’s Infantry Battalion 368 under the No. 10 Inspection Headquarters were among the perpetrators.

On Sept. 16, Mi-35 military helicopters swooped down and opened fire on the school, where about 200 young students were attending classes. Infantry troops then attacked on the ground.

The junta troops took away the bodies of killed students in rice sacks and detained 15 people including seven children, five teachers and three villagers as hostages. Among the detainees were Mg Phone Pyae Sone Kyaw, 7, who suffered injuries to his eyes, and Ma Nan Ei Wai, 12, whose legs were badly wounded. The two were being held at Monywa Military Hospital.

The bodies of those killed were cremated the morning after the attack at Ye-U cemetery, about 11 km away.

Captain Zay Thu Aung, a Myanmar Air Force pilot who defected from the military soon after the February 2021 coup, told The Irrawaddy that the helicopter pilots would have clearly seen the children in the school compound.

“They [the pilots] dropped bombs despite seeing kids running on the ground,” he said.

While denouncing the attack as a war crime during his interview with The Irrawaddy, Zay Thu Aung said that aside from the pilots, major responsibility for the carnage lay with the regional commander who ordered the attack.

“Air strikes on a school where young children are studying is an inhumane and most cruel act,” NUG Prime Minister Mahn Winn Khaing Than said last week, while calling on the international community to stop turning a blind eye to the severe human rights violations and war crimes committed against children and other civilians in Myanmar by the junta.

Below is the information published by the NUG’s Human Rights Ministry.