9 May 2023
Dear President Biden,
We, the undersigned 190 organizations, are shocked, horrified, and appalled by the Burmese military’s intentional targeting of civilians on April 11, an unprovoked aerial attack that killed more than 170 civilians, including at least 40 children. We urge you to take and coordinate action immediately and implement harsher sanctions that will effectively hold the military junta accountable for this blatant violation of international law and cut off its fuel and weaponry supply.
On Tuesday, April 11, the military junta launched a devastating aerial attack in Kanbalu township, Sagaing region. Early that morning, more than 300 people had gathered for the opening of a new administration office. The junta’s military aircraft bombed Kanbalu as a Russian-made Mi35 helicopter fired into the ceremony while circling the village. Military planes continued to fly over the village, making it extremely difficult for first responders to enter the area to assist the injured and recover the bodies of victims. More than 170 civilians were killed during the attack, with at least 30 injured and 20 more in critical condition. Of the 170 casualties, at least 27 were women and 38 were children.
These aerial bombardments are not exclusive to Sagaing region, but are happening throughout Burma at an alarming and increasing rate. In October 2022, the junta killed over 80 civilians in Kachin state after intentionally bombing an outdoor concert. In early January 2023, the military carried out deadly airstrikes that killed five civilians, including a mother and 2-year-old daughter in Karen state. According to recent documentation, at least 31 airstrikes have been carried out in Karen State in 2023 alone, killing at least 12 villagers, including children. On March 20, the junta launched multiple airstrikes in Kyaukgyi and Shwekyin townships, Bago region, forcing more than 3,000 civilians to flee their homes. On March 30, two Burmese military jets targeted a local clinic and a community-run school in Htee Hpoe Ka Loe village, Karenni state. In retaliation for suffering
devastating losses during conflict with ethnic armed organizations, the military launched airstrikes on two separate villages in Shwegu township, Kachin state on March 30. The junta also launched an aerial attack targeting a high school in Falam township, Chin state on April 10, which left nine civilians dead. To gain control of the country, the junta is becoming increasingly reliant on aerial bombings and attacks targeting civilians.
To prevent these devastating attacks, it is imperative that the United States lead coordinated action within the international community to cut off the junta’s ability to purchase jet fuel and supplies. While the United States has already announced sanctions targeting Asia Sun Group (a major fuel supplier) and other military individuals, current sanctions only impact entities in Burma and entirely neglect the international corporations that are known allies of the junta. With these allies, the junta is able to easily create proxy companies that serve as a loophole to evade sanctions. Targeted sanctions must have harsher penalties and stronger enforcement. Otherwise, these international allies will continue to sell and transport jet fuel to the junta which will be used to target and kill civilians.
We recognize and thank you for the actions you have taken thus far to support the people of Burma. However, as organizations that have connections, indirect and direct, with those on the ground in Burma, we know that the United States needs to do more. Please regard the junta’s April 11 aerial attack as a devastating warning of what is to come for the people of Burma should the military continue to have unchecked access to fuel and other supplies. The United States holds the power and influence to create change – please ensure that this power is not wasted.
We ask for the specific actions below:
- Sanction international companies that sell jet fuel supplies to the military junta. While smaller Burmese entities can be easily replaced, major international entities would face severe repercussions and serious obstacles to their ability to supply the military.
- Bar any entity from providing shipping insurance or shipping services to companies selling jet fuel to the military, its allies or affiliated companies. The most effective way of disrupting the flow of jet fuel is to prevent ships from picking up cargo or accessing ports by withholding insurance and services.
- Impose sanctions on the Myanmar Oil and Gas Enterprise (MOGE), as the European Union has already done. Sanctions on MOGE itself, not just on MOGE officials, would cut off one of the junta’s largest revenue streams and have the greatest impact on stopping the junta’s campaign of lethal violence in the country.
- Hold the Burmese junta accountable for their clear violations of international law and active war crimes, genocide, crimes against humanity, and mass atrocities.