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Three Killed as Myanmar Regime Jets Bomb Mine in KNU Territory

The Thapyu mine after the regime's air strike on Wednesday morning.

Three people were killed and eight injured when the Myanmar junta’s military launched an air strike on a mining facility in Thapyu Village in Karen State’s Kyar Inn Seik Gyi district on Wednesday morning, according to the Karen National Union (KNU) and local residents.

The Thapyu mine is located about 30 km north of Hpayar Thone Su town. Though no clashes were reported in the area, two military regime jet fighters dropped bombs on the complex at 1:40 a.m., destroying it completely. The area is controlled by the KNU and located in the territory of Division 6 of its armed wing, the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA).

Though the area is controlled by the KNU, mining businesses operating there have been subject to the investment and operating laws of Myanmar’s successive central governments.

Local media outlets reported that one or more Chinese citizens were among the dead, but the KNU said it still could not verify the reports, or any casualty details.

“It is confirmed that the Thapyu mining block has been attacked by the junta’s jet fighters. But we can’t verify the deaths of Chinese citizens yet,” said KNU spokesperson Padoh Saw Taw Nee.

The Irrawaddy asked the Chinese Embassy if it had received any reports of Chinese citizens being killed in the incident, but embassy officials have yet to respond.

According to local residents the Thapyu mining block was officially designated as No. 6 Mining Block by Myanmar regimes before the 2021 coup, and resumed operation just a few days ago.

“Such an act removes any possibility of [the junta and the KNU] improving our relationship. Therefore, in such a situation, we have no choice but to continue our struggle and keep fighting,” Padoh Saw Taw Nee said.

Operations at the Thapyu mining block were launched in 2003 with the permission of the Ministry of Mining under the previous Myanmar military regime, which gave rights to local ethnic Burmese and Karen-run companies to extract antimony and tin, according to Kyar Inn Seik Kyi residents.

“As this area is controlled by the KNU, the Mining Ministry had to deal with the KNU, and developed an understanding and entered agreements with them. When it began in 2003-04, only Thapyu Co. Ltd. was present. Later, other companies were allowed in,” explained a resident.

According to data from the Directorate of Investment and Company Administration (DICA), the Thapyu Co. referred to by residents continues to operate as Thapyu Thar Co. Ltd.

In 2005, pollution of nearby areas by wastewater from Thapyu Thar Co.’s tin-cleansing plant  caused health problems, prompting authorities from both sides to suspend the plant’s authorization to operate. However, the company relaunched its operations in 2013 after re-registering with DICA.