Teachers at a school in Myanmar hit by military helicopters last week have spoken of the horrific aftermath of the attack – including watching a wounded child scream in pain and beg to die.
Friday’s violence at a school in the village of Let Yet Kone in the Sagaing district left 14 people dead – 12 of them children, the youngest as 7 years old.
The United Nations, European Union and human rights groups condemned the incident, which Myanmar’s military said targeted insurgents who used civilians as human shields.
A teacher said some children were playing outside while others were in class as two gunships flew in and opened fire with machine guns and heavy weapons.
“A girl was hit in the back of the head…and there was a lot of blood,” the teacher said in a telephone interview with AFP, describing a frantic effort to give first aid.
Students scrambled to hide under desks as the smoke swirled, the teacher added, whose name AFP did not reveal for safety reasons.
The helicopter then landed and troops poured out, storming the campus and ordering everyone inside to come out, the teacher said.
Some of the children were badly injured in their legs, leaving blood trails when they climbed out, while others were so badly injured that they couldn’t move from their hiding places, the teacher said.
Myanmar has been in chaos since the military seized power in a coup last February, with nearly 2,300 civilians killed in a crackdown on dissent, according to a local monitoring group.
Some of the fiercest fighting took place in the Sagaing region in the country’s northwest, where entire villages were burned in clashes between anti-coup fighters and the military.
The mother of a wounded student begged soldiers to let her into the classroom where her seven-year-old son bled to death, teachers said.
“The soldier yelled at her: ‘Do you want me to shoot you?'” the teacher said.
They added that her son was bleeding so much it was almost “like drowning in water”.
Later, the mother was reunited with her dying son – who had lost a hand and a leg.
“The boy was alive and he said: ‘Mom, it’s painful, kill me, kill me, I can’t take the pain’,” the teacher said.
The teacher said the tearful mother pleaded with soldiers not to take her son’s body, but they insisted he was not dead and took him to hospital.
“The mother shouted: ‘Let me have a funeral for my child.'”
The teacher later saw the soldiers throw the children’s severed body parts and bloody clothes into rice bags.
A second teacher described the children rushing into the room as the helicopter approached and the building was hit by a massive explosion.
“I saw a kid who was beaten and he screamed for help. He was covered in blood and kept screaming for help, but I didn’t dare to go out and help him,” a second teacher told AFP by phone.
As the shooting continued, a second teacher decided to leave the building and took 20 students to hide under a large tamarind tree as the injured boy continued to scream for help.
AFP was unable to independently verify the teachers’ accounts.
Many in the village of Let Yet Kone are still anxiously awaiting news of some of the students missing after the attack.
There are no immediate plans to reopen the school, which has nearly 250 students and more than 20 teachers.
The junta said it had dispatched a helicopter unit to the village after receiving reports that fighters from the Kachin Independence Army (KIA), an ethnic rebel group, and local anti-coup militias were delivering weapons in the area. .
The military accused the insurgents of using civilians as human shields and said it had seized mines and explosives from the village.
“Security personnel performed the necessary treatment and arranged to transport the patient to a nearby hospital,” the military said in a statement.
Junta spokesman Zaw Min Tun on Tuesday accused KIA of taking villagers to a monastery, from where it opened fire on the army.