Tragedy in Laiza as Heavy Weapons Strike, Claiming Nearly 30 Lives; Bago Grapples with Worst Flood in Decades

Myanmar Spring Chronicle October 9th

Published by MoeMaKa on October 10, 2023

Tragedy in Laiza as Heavy Weapons Strike, Claiming Nearly 30 Lives; Bago Grapples with Worst Flood in Decades

On the night of October 9, tragedy struck Laiza, a town bordering the Kachin Independence Organization (KIO) headquarters. Around 11:30 p.m., a neighborhood was subjected to a barrage of heavy artillery shells, resulting in a devastating explosion that took the lives of numerous families fleeing from the ongoing conflict. Preliminary reports indicate that 29 individuals have tragically lost their lives, with an additional 56 sustaining injuries. The full extent of the devastation remains unclear, including the exact nature of the weapon used and the means of delivery. Colonel Naw Bu, the spokesperson for the KIA (Kachin Independence Army), noted that although there were explosions, there were no audible aircraft sounds, leading to speculation that the attack may have been carried out by a drone. Heart-wrenching images from the scene depict collapsed houses and a lifeless child, covered in mud. Shockingly, among the 29 victims, 11 were innocent children.

This incident marks the deadliest episode in Laiza since November 2014 when heavy artillery shelling targeted the Military Officer Training School at the KIO headquarters. The neighborhood of Munn Lai Hkyet, where the heavy artillery struck, is situated approximately 2 miles from Laiza and is home to a significant population of internally displaced persons. Tragically, in the same month last year, an aerial bombardment took place during a concert celebrating the 62nd anniversary of the KIO at the A Nant Pa camp in Hpakant Township, resulting in the loss of over 60 lives, including KIA members.

Less than a year later, the military council has struck a neighborhood in Laiza with high-explosive weaponry, likely heavy artillery, leading to the demise of nearly 30 internally displaced individuals.

A few days prior to this incident, news reports indicated that the Military Council had extended an invitation to the KIO to participate in the 5th-anniversary ceremony of the NCA (National Ceasefire Agreement), scheduled for October 15. Regrettably, this attack by the Military Council underscores that their peace efforts are akin to fanning the flames on one side while offering water on the other.

In another pressing development, Bago City is currently grappling with the most severe flood it has experienced in six decades. The Bago River, which typically inundates low-lying neighborhoods in the city every 2-3 years, has now caused widespread flooding, affecting not only the usual areas but numerous other parts of the city as well. As of October 9, the water levels have yet to recede and remain approximately 4 feet above critical levels. The situation is so dire that locals describe it as a flood that could even make dogs take refuge on rooftops.

This year’s flooding is notably worse than the occasional inundations that occur at the close of the monsoon season in early October. Amidst political turmoil, widespread armed conflicts, a deteriorating economy, and increasing restrictions on freedom of speech and communication, there has been limited engagement from social organizations, civil groups, and charitable associations in responding to the flood disaster. With high inflation, constraints on movement, and extensive checks, it appears that comprehensive assistance for the Bago flood has been impeded compared to the pre-coup period. While no casualties have been reported as a result of the Bago floods, the city is poised to experience significant economic losses and endure health and social hardships.

In some rice-growing regions in the Bago Region, there are reports of vast rice fields, just weeks from harvest, being submerged, causing substantial agricultural losses. The people are grappling with flooding in the face of climate change, poor governance, and a lack of confidence in the military council’s governance.