Military jets bomb a mine in Kayin State, killing 3 civilians

UPDATED at 6:19 p.m. EST on 11-16-2022

A junta air attack on a mine near the Thai-Myanmar border left three people dead. The attack happened in the early hours of Wednesday morning, according to local residents.

The identity of the victims is not yet known but they are believed to be workers at an antimony (kohl) mine, which is about 32 kilometers (20 miles) from Payathonzu town in Kayin State.

A Payathonzu resident told RFA two of the three injured were sent to hospitals in the area as they were critically wounded.

“[The mine] was hit by fighter jets are about 01:00 a.m. There were many Chinese in the mine but there were no Chinese nationals among the dead. Only Burmese people died, two Chinese just lost their passports,” the local said.

The mine is in an area controlled by Karen National Union (KNU) Brigade 6, and its owners have to pay taxes to the KNU.

Pro-junta Telegram channels said military jets bombed a KNU camp near Me Ka Thar village in Payathonzu town at 01.40 a.m. killing many people. RFA has not been able to confirm this.

When RFA contacted the junta spokesman and economy minister for Kayin State, Saw Khin Maung Myint, he referred us to the minister of security and border affairs.

Junta Deputy Information Minister Major General Zaw Min Tun told reporters that the mine is "illegal," as a contract with operator Tha Byu Mining Co. had ended in 2016.

He claimed KNU Brigade 6 is "supervising and executing these illegal mining activities in the area."

Zaw Min Tun added that on Sept. 20, the KNU and a local branch of the anti-junta People's Defense Force paramilitary group had attacked a military post near the mine, and that the military carried out the Wednesday airstrike "for security reasons, as [the KNU and PDF] are illegally mining in the area and carrying out subversive activities."

KNU spokesperson Pado Saw Taw Ni confirmed to RFA that three people had been killed in the strike and said at least six people were injured, including a 52-year-old Chinese national named "Xu Jingmei."

He said that around 10 mining companies are based in the area and "awaiting the legal reopening of the mines."

Pado Saw Taw Ni also condemned Zaw Min Tun's remarks as "irresponsible," adding that the junta "knowingly attacked a civilian area."

Attempts by RFA to contact the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar via email to confirm whether any Chinese nationals were among those killed in the airstrike went unanswered Wednesday.

On Oct. 6, the junta air force bombed a village about three miles from Payathonzu, damaging a monastery and some houses.

This story has been updated to include comments from Junta Deputy Information Minister Major General Zaw Min Tun, KNU spokesperson Pado Saw Taw Ni, and attempts by RFA to contact the Chinese Embassy in Myanmar.