Eighteen children studying at a Buddhist monastery in upper Sagaing Region’s Wuntho Township were injured when artillery fired by the Myanmar army exploded at the site on Wednesday afternoon.
Troops from Light Infantry Battalion 120 reportedly fired the shells from a howitzer cannon capable of shooting 155mm rounds.
The National Unity Government stated on Thursday that three shells had detonated in the Khanti Wunsarama Monastery in the village of Gyoe Taung, around 13km east of Wuntho town. The junta’s indiscriminate firing on civilian targets in the incident constituted a war crime, the publicly mandated administration said.
Six of the 18 children were reportedly in critical condition at the time of reporting.
Myanmar Now has been unable to make contact with residents of Gyoe Taung for further updates, as phone and internet services have been cut off to Wuntho Township, where frequent clashes have taken place between the military and resistance forces.
An officer in the nearby anti-junta Kawlin Township People’s Defence Force (PDF) who had spoken with Gyoe Taung villagers confirmed that six children were seriously injured in the attack.
“The indiscriminate fire was a reaction to their resentment after the first day’s fighting,” he said, referring to a Monday ambush on a military checkpoint by the Kawlin and Wuntho PDFs.
Ten junta soldiers were killed in the assault, the PDF officer added. Resistance forces subsequently seized several guns from the post.
Pro-military Telegram channels reported that the clash occurred, stating that four members of a junta-backed militia were killed and five wounded.
The Myanmar military frequently fires heavy artillery at or carries out airstrikes on villages surrounding their camps, hitting schools, clinics, religious buildings and camps for internally displaced persons.
A Tuesday report to the United Nations Human Rights Council issued by Volker Türk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, said that the junta had launched 687 airstrikes between April 2022 and July 2023.
There have also been more than 20 mass killings of 10 or more people in Myanmar during that time, and more than 75,000 homes burned down by the military in Sagaing Region alone, according to Türk.
The military has not released any official information on the artillery assault in Wuntho Township. When past targets on civilians have been exposed, the junta has typically justified them as attacks on “terrorist” locations.