Myanmar’s ruling junta confirms deadly airstrike on village

Briefly: Myanmar’s ruling military junta has sought to justify Tuesday’s deadly attack on a village in the opposition stronghold of Sagaing, claiming anti-regime fighters were present. The attack left more than 100 people dead.

Villagers had gathered to open a new office of the National Unity Government (NUG), the coalition seeking a return to civilian rule. Children were reportedly dancing when a fighter jet and helicopter gunship attacked.

The junta has ruled Myanmar for most of the past 60 years, claiming it’s the only institution capable of holding the diverse country together. But the NUG called for a national uprising in September 2021, after the junta ousted the country’s democratically-elected government earlier that year.

Analysts say the junta’s airstrikes are a show of weakness rather than strength: as the military loses ground across the country, it’s having to resort to air power.

Intrigue’s take: The world will be watching how key regional body ASEAN (the Association of Southeast Asian Nations) responds to all this. Beyond banning the junta from its summits and issuing a 5-point plan (which Myanmar has ignored), it’s been pretty muted to date.

Many hope this will change at next month’s ASEAN summit in Indonesia. It’s an opportunity to put some substance behind the cherished principle of ASEAN centrality, which emphasises ASEAN’s role in the region’s global engagement. If not, ASEAN centrality risks becoming little more than a slogan.

Also worth noting:

  • Hours after the attack, ASEAN tweeted Thingyan new year’s greetings to the people of Myanmar. The ASEAN chair condemned the attack two days later.
  • Russia and China blocked the UN Security Council from condemning the attack. A UN report accuses Russia and China of supplying Myanmar’s junta with weapons.
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