The father was instantly killed when Myanmar’s military dropped a bomb on their small bamboo home. But his three-year-old son miraculously survived.
The weekend airstrikes were the first in more than 20 years in Myanmar’s Karen state, shattering an already fragile peace in an area where ethnic armed groups have clashed with the military since independence.
They also took place during the worst bloodshed since the Feb. 1 coup, as security forces killed more than 100 people on Saturday an attempt to crush opposition to the junta after it ousted civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi.
The overall death toll now stands at 510, according to the Assistance Association of Political Prisoners.
That includes 27-year-old Saw Aye Lay Htoo, the father of toddler Saw Ta Eh Ka Lu Moo Taw.
The three-year-old boy was sitting in his father’s lap when the attack occurred on their home in northern Karen state near the border with Thailand, according to Dave Eubank, founder of Christian humanitarian group called Free Burma Rangers, which provided medical assistance. The father was killed instantly, but the boy received a light shrapnel wound to the head which was patched up.
The airstrike came just days after a nearby village was shelled with mortar fire injuring two villagers, including a five-year-old. At least 38 minors have been killed in the two-month crackdown, according to monitors.
“Villagers were confused why the Burma Army fired into the village without any provocation or reason,” Eubank told VICE World News on Tuesday, using the country’s previous name.
Photos from the area showed devastated homes in the aftermath of the attacks as well as numerous images of wounded civilians and newly displaced people.
Thousands of refugees have fled northern Karen State to escape the possibility of more airstrikes. Photo courtesy of Free Burma Rangers
Airstrikes and shelling have pushed thousands of people to the Thai border. Refugees fleeing the violence say Thai authorities pushed them back when they tried to cross. The Thai government denies the allegation, but the situation at the border is worsening as more internally displaced people (IDPs) stream into the region.
“There are now over ten thousand new IDPs in northern Karen State,” Eubank said. “There have been more attacks daily and nightly airstrikes. We’re probably going to be at fifteen thousand IDPs in northern Karen State alone by the end of the week.”
Video footage shows refugees with children and the elderly making their way back across the rugged landscape of Myanmar’s hills.