Myanmar: Airstrikes force villagers fleeing into jungle as 3,000 cross border to Thailand

Airstrikes that sent villagers fleeing into the jungle show the situation in Myanmar is “much worse”, a humanitarian worker has told Sky News, as military leaders reportedly partied on the deadliest day of violence since last month’s coup.

More gunfire has been reported today as people gathered for the funeral of one of at least 114 people said to have been killed by Myanmar security forces yesterday, including a five-year-old boy and a 13-year-old girl.

And local media is reporting that around 3,000 people from Myanmar’s southeastern Karen state have left the country and crossed the border into Thailand to escape the violence.

Despite the bloodshed, protesters returned to the streets on Sunday to demand a return to democracy.

David Eubank, founder of the humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers, said airstrikes on a village in Karen killed at least three people and wounded eight others.

He said the first airstrikes struck at around 8.30pm local time on Saturday and more hit between 1am and 2am on Sunday.

“There were multiple airstrikes and what was very different for us is we haven’t had airstrikes there for over 20 years,” Mr Eubank told Sky News.

He said the strikes were carried out at night, adding: “The capability of the Burma military has increased with help from Russia and China and other nations, and that is deadly.

“People are in hiding now in the Day Pu No Valley, and that’s adding to the over 8,000 people already in hiding with attacks that escalated since the coup of 1 February.”

Mr Eubank said the Myanmar army was “indiscriminately killing men, women and children” in cities “but also attacking increasingly in the mountains of the ethnic areas such as Karen State”.

“What I see is the situation has become much worse,” he added.

The airstrikes came after the Karen National Union faction had earlier said it had overrun an army post near the Thai border, killing 10 people.

Saturday’s violence came as the leader of Myanmar’s military junta, General Min Aung Hlaing, led a military parade in the capital Naypyitaw.

Pictures posted on social media purportedly showed a luxury military party held in the evening, sparking widespread criticism on social media, including from Burmese activist Maung Zarni.

Defence chiefs from 12 countries, including the UK and US, issued a statement condemning the “use of lethal force against unarmed people by the Myanmar armed forces and associated security services”.

“We urge the Myanmar armed forces to cease violence and work to restore respect and credibility with the people of Myanmar that it has lost through its actions,” they said.

US defence secretary Antony Blinken said he was “horrified by the bloodshed perpetrated by Burmese security forces, showing that the junta will sacrifice the lives of the people to serve the few”.

“The courageous people of Burma reject the military’s reign of terror,” he added.

Sky’s South East Asia correspondent Siobhan Robbins said there was “real concern that whatever’s being said by the international community simply isn’t getting through”.

Myanmar citizens are “living day after day amid increasing violence” with “people being beaten, people being shot” and now facing airstrikes, she added.

The UN Security Council has condemned the violence but not advocated concerted action against Myanmar’s military junta, such as a ban on selling it arms.

China and Russia are both major arms suppliers to Myanmar’s military as well as politically sympathetic, and, as members of the security council, would almost certainly veto any such move.

Countries including Thailand, Russia and China sent dignitaries to a military parade in Myanmar on Saturday, Robbins said.

In recent days the junta has portrayed the demonstrators as the ones perpetrating violence for their sporadic use of Molotov cocktails.

On Saturday, some protesters in Yangon were seen carrying bows and arrows.

The junta has said its use of force is justified to stop what it has called rioting.

The number of people killed in the unrest since the overthrow of Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected government now stands at around 440.

However, monitoring groups have cautioned this only includes verified cases, with the actual number of casualties “likely much higher”.

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