The Myanmar military launched an airstrike on a prominent training camp for pro-democracy forces close to the Indian border, with jets dropping at least two bombs inside Indian territory according to eyewitnesses.
The Myanmar junta, who seized power in a coup in February 2021 and are engaged in a bloody battle to crush pro-democracy insurgents, began bombing Camp Victoria in Myanmar’s Chin state, on Tuesday afternoon, a rebel commander confirmed to the Guardian.
Camp Victoria serves as the headquarters of Chin National Army (CNA), an ethnic armed group which is fighting alongside other rebel groups to restore democracy in Myanmar, under the banner of People’s Defence Force (PDF). The training camp is located just a few kilometres from the border with the Indian state of Mizoram.
Another rebel fighter, requesting anonymity, said that fighter jets dropped multiple bombs on the camp, leading to panic. The rebels said some jets crossed over the Tiau river, which serves as the border between India and Myanmar.
Two locals on the Indian side in Farkawan village, located in the state of Mizoram, said that two bombs were dropped on the India side of the border but no one was hurt.
Rama, president of Farkawan village council, who uses a single name, confirmed the bombings on the Indian side, which he said had caused “panic” in their village and fear of more strikes violating the border areas.
“A truck from our side was damaged by one bomb, which was parked near Tiau river,” he said. “Some people from Myanmar side have crossed over the border after the bombing and people in our village are helping them and the injured. We could see that the bombing was carried out by three fighter jets and two helicopters.”
There was no immediate comment from the military or government media.
Indian authorities did not confirm whether bombs were dropped inside Indian territory. However, one Indian army officer told the Guardian that they are aware of the reports that there has been a disturbance near the border and were accessing the situation.
According to the rebel commander, seven rebel fighters were killed, including one woman, in the aerial bombings and over 20 people in Camp Victoria were injured. He identified the slain rebels as Salai Van Ro Piang, Salai Duh Tin, Mai Ngun Hlei Par, Mai Sui Len Par and Salai Kil Mang.
Aerial strikes have become a common tactic used by the junta, particularly in areas held by ethnic rebels forces, as they continue a ruthless campaign of violence to consolidate their power. In October, at least 80 people, mostly civilians, were killed when the military launched an airstrike on a concert in Kachin state, in northern Myanmar.
It is the first time that Camp Victoria in Chin has been targeted with aerial bombings by the junta. The rebel commanders said they were not anticipating an aerial strike because of the camp’s close proximity to the Indian border.
Due to their shared ethnic background, there is much sympathy in Mizoram for the plight of the civilians and rebel fighters of Chin state. The border between the Indian state of Mizoram and Myanmar has become an essential route for the smuggling of weapons, supplies and medicines to support the rebel fighters, with authorities largely turning a blind eye.
Over 40,000 people have crossed over into India to flee the violence and are living in around 60 refugee camps across Mizoram, while injured rebel fighters often cross over to the Indian side for treatment.
According to the commander after the Camp Victoria raid, dozens fled to India, while doctors from Mizoram crossed over into Myanmar to help treat the injured who could not be moved. On Wednesday, in protest at the aerial strikes, there was a shutdown across Chin state.