Amnesty International has urged for an investigation into the Myanmar military’s alleged war crimes following an air attack in Kanan village, Sagaing region. The attack, which took place on January 7, resulted in the deaths of 17 villagers, including two children, who were attending a Sunday church service. At least 20 people were injured in the incident.
According to Amnesty International, photo and video analysis, along with witness interviews, indicate that the Myanmar air force dropped bombs on three locations near the St Peter Baptist Church in Kanan village. The rights group stated that the damage observed is consistent with air strikes, with craters resembling those caused by aircraft bombs weighing approximately 250kg each.
Despite the Myanmar military’s denial of responsibility, Amnesty International’s review of video footage revealed the presence of an A-5 fighter jet, a China-made aircraft exclusively used by the military, flying over the village during the attack. Satellite imagery from the Tada-U airbase near Mandalay also showed active A-5 operations on the airfield, corroborating eyewitness reports of an A-5 taking off, flying, and landing on the morning of the incident.
Matt Wells, the director of Amnesty’s crisis response programme, emphasized the need to investigate these attacks as war crimes. He called for the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Myanmar to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to ensure that those responsible for these crimes under international law are held accountable.
Myanmar has been embroiled in a crisis since the military seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi three years ago. The coup triggered mass protests, which eventually escalated into armed resistance due to the military’s brutal response. Since then, at least 4,485 civilians have been killed, and violence has spread throughout the country.
Sagaing, in particular, has witnessed numerous brutal assaults by the military, including air attacks and the burning of villages. These actions align with the military’s long-held strategy known as “four cuts,” which aims to separate its opponents from potential civilian supporters.
The deteriorating situation in Myanmar has prompted calls for increased international intervention. The United Nations estimates that over 2.6 million people have been displaced, and millions require urgent humanitarian assistance. While some sanctions have been imposed by the United States and its allies, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) has taken the lead in addressing the crisis. However, the military regime has disregarded the Five Point Consensus agreed upon during an emergency meeting with Myanmar army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in April 2021, and ASEAN’s efforts to enforce compliance have been limited.
Marzuki Darusman, a member of the Special Advisory Council on Myanmar (SAC-M), called on the UN Security Council to provide support and protection to the people of Myanmar. Darusman criticized the Security Council’s previous statements as ineffective and urged for the junta to face justice for its deplorable acts. Fellow SAC-M member Chris Sedoti emphasized the need for the Security Council to refer Myanmar to the ICC or establish a special tribunal to hold the perpetrators of grave international crimes accountable.
The SAC-M was established by a group of international independent experts to support the people of Myanmar in their fight for justice and accountability following the coup. In 2018, the UN Independent International Fact-Finding Mission on Myanmar called for the investigation and prosecution of Senior General Min Aung Hlaing and other top military leaders for genocide, crimes against humanity, and war crimes against ethnic and religious minorities.