Wounded Myanmar refugees tell of air strike horror | Daily News

Wounded Myanmar refugees tell of air strike horror

US orders diplomats out of Myanmar:
Villages injured during air strikes are seen while taking shelter in a jungle in Myanmar’s Kayin state, on Tuesday.
Villages injured during air strikes are seen while taking shelter in a jungle in Myanmar’s Kayin state, on Tuesday.

THAILAND: Civilians wounded in Myanmar air strikes on rebel positions spoke of their terrifying ordeal after trekking through jungle to seek medical treatment across the border in Thailand.

Military jets hit targets in eastern Kayin state over the weekend, as Myanmar reeled from the deadliest day so far in the junta’s crackdown on anti-coup protests.

The strikes targeted territory held by the Karen National Union (KNU), one of the nation’s largest ethnic armed groups, which had earlier seized a military base.

They marked the Myanmar military’s first use of air strikes against the KNU in 20 years and sent around 7,000 Karen villagers fleeing for safety, according to the armed group.

Naw Eh Tah, one of a handful who managed to cross the Salween River -- which marks the border with Thailand -- on Tuesday to seek medical treatment, described the moment the bombs hit.

“We didn’t hear the plane -- if we did, we would have run,” the 18-year-old told AFP at the small Sop Moei district hospital in Thailand’s northern Mae Hong Son province.

“By the time I realised what was happening, the explosion hit the roof of my house.

“When I got hit, I couldn’t walk -- I had to climb to hide.”

Doctor Chakri Komsakorm said the refugees looked like “they have been through war” with many shrapnel wounds becoming infected due to a lack of medicine.

He added that “many appear to have been starving for many days”.

Chakri also said he had heard there were people with more serious wounds still trapped on the Myanmar side of the river, unable to cross because of the severity of their injuries.

Karen groups say as many as 3,000 people fled across the river into Thailand after the air strikes before being sent back to Myanmar, though Thai officials insist they were not forced back.

The Thai Foreign Ministry said late Tuesday about 2,300 have returned to Myanmar and about 550 remain in Thailand.

Meanwhile, the United States on Wednesday ordered the departure of non-essential diplomats from Myanmar, amid growing violence following the military coup to oust civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.

Daily protests demanding the restoration of the elected government have been met with a military crackdown that has left more than 520 civilians dead in the weeks since the February 1 coup.

The junta’s violent response has triggered international condemnation -- and threats of retaliation from some of Myanmar’s myriad ethnic armed groups.

The US State Department said it was ordering the departure of “non-emergency US government employees and their family members”.

The spiralling bloodshed has angered some of Myanmar’s 20 or so armed ethnic groups, who control large areas of territory mostly in border regions.

Three of them -- the Ta’ang National Liberation Army, the Myanmar Nationalities Democratic Alliance Army and the Arakan Army (AA) -- on Tuesday threatened to join protesters’ fight unless the military reined in its crackdown. - AFP