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Myanmar military airstrikes pound resistance fighters with Russian-suppled aircraft


SINGAPORE – Myanmar’s military has stepped up airstrikes in its marketing campaign towards resistance fighters, relying extra on Russian-supplied planes, surveillance teams and resistance leaders say.

The newest airstrikes are among the many deadliest for the reason that military took management in February, Myanmar specialists say. The marketing campaign has led to loud calls from human rights teams for overseas governments to cease provides of aircraft tools and gasoline to the Southeast Asian nation. The airstrikes have additionally elevated considerations about Myanmar’s deepening ties with Russia, one in every of its remaining allies within the face of more durable Western sanctions.

As world leaders head to Southeast Asia for a summit this week, Myanmar activists say they hope progress will probably be made in the direction of a sweeping arms embargo.

“Some of the types of weapons used to kill people in Ukraine are also used to kill people in Myanmar,” Tom Andrews, the UN particular rapporteur on Myanmar, mentioned in October. “And they come from the same source — they come from Russia.”

Over the previous month, Myanmar’s military has deployed Russian-made Yak-130 jets and MI-35 helicopters throughout the nation, dropping unguided, imprecise munitions which have killed dozens of individuals, rights teams together with Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch say.

In September, two military helicopters opened hearth on a faculty within the central Sagaing area the place combating had been fierce, killing not less than 11 kids, in keeping with the United Nations Children’s Fund. Weeks later, military jets focused an out of doors live performance in northern Kachin State, managed by an ethnic separatist group. The assault killed and tripped as much as 80 folks, in keeping with native officers international condemnation, additionally from the USA. Scores of civilians are among the many useless, mentioned Colonel Naw Bu, a spokesman for the Kachin Independence Organization.

The junta denied civilians had been killed within the airstrike, as a substitute saying it focused identified “enemies and terrorists,” together with troopers from the Kachin Independence Organization, which has lengthy sought independence from Myanmar.

As the world strikes on, Myanmar faces a rising, hidden toll

However, Human Rights Watch Asia researcher Manny Maung mentioned there was mounting proof the airstrikes had been “indiscriminate, disproportionate use of force” that probably violated the legal guidelines of struggle.

The assaults are “not just a physical threat,” she added, “but a psychologically terrifying threat.”

In Sagaing, a resistance stronghold that has seen fierce battle, villagers have constructed makeshift bunkers or moved to makeshift jungle camps to guard themselves from the airstrikes, mentioned Lwan Thu, an activist within the area. Because the junta, often known as Tatmadaw, has blocked web entry in elements of Sagaing, neighborhood leaders have been unable to share details about the motion of military planes or situation warnings when assaults seem imminent, mentioned Lwan Thu, 33.

“We have no weapon or defense system to protect us,” he added. “We have no choice but to flee.”

While the Kachin and Sagaing airstrikes have been essentially the most vital, smaller assaults are occurring nearly every day, mentioned U Yee Mon, the protection minister of the opposition National Unity authorities, which has been working in exile for the reason that coup. After months of fundraising, the NUG just lately purchased some anti-aircraft weapons, U Yee Mon mentioned. “But I’ve to confess that each our vary and capability are inadequate to counteract this [junta’s] Airstrikes at this level,” he added.

To arm its military, Myanmar relies on imports, traditionally from Russia, China and India. The latter two countries, which border Myanmar, have cooled off on the junta as the civil war dragged on, analysts say. But the junta has sought to cement its alliance with the Kremlin over the past year, including by expressing support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Myanmar military leader General Min Aung Hlaing has visited Russia three times since taking power in a coup d’état and is reported to have told Russia’s defense minister in June 2021 that “because of Russia, our military has turn out to be one of many strongest within the area is”. During his last visit in September, the general met with President Vladimir Putin and toured a factory that produces fighter jets.

In return, Russia has backed the junta’s bid to be recognized as Myanmar’s legitimate government, designating Min Aung Hlaing as “prime minister”. Despite its losses in Ukraine, Russia has pledged to honor arms deals signed in Myanmar before the coup, including for missile defense systems and warplanes. It has also signed new agreements to supply Myanmar with oil and military training.

A love story forged in Myanmar’s political strife ends in execution

Many of the junta’s airstrikes were carried out by Yak-130 jets, two-seat planes originally developed for pilot training but used in counterinsurgency operations in Myanmar and elsewhere. Myanmar has at least 20 Yak-130 jets, including six it received from Russia last December, said Myanmar Witness, a nonprofit that investigates rights violations.

As of this year, Russia has also started deliveries of six Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets, a witness from Myanmar said. Matt Freear, a spokesman for the organization, said researchers recently verified evidence, including satellite imagery, showing at least one of those jets is already in Myanmar. These machines have twice the payload and twice the “potential lethality” of the Yak-130, Freear added.

In the face of quite a few insurgencies over the previous 12 months, the Tatmadaw’s floor forces have been “thinly unfold” so air power is one of their only remaining assets, said Zachary Abuza, a professor at the National War College in Washington who studies security issues in Southeast Asia. Despite the junta’s advantage in the air, its airstrikes do not appear to be part of a clear military strategy, Abuza said. Aircraft were deployed in isolation rather than in conjunction with ground forces, and often targeted civilian buildings such as churches, schools, and hospitals.

“When I take a look at a helicopter gunship firing 30mm cannons at an elementary faculty … it is laborious to see any military technique aside from terrorizing civilians,” Abuza said. The military “signals to people that ‘we’re ready for anything.’ But in terms of a military strategy, I don’t see any.”

Russia is shopping for weapons from North Korea for the struggle in Ukraine, US intelligence says

Human rights teams are calling on the UN Security Council to impose a world arms embargo on Myanmar. But grounding current planes would require a discount in aviation gasoline provides, and that might have an effect on nations far past Russia, mentioned Montse Ferrer, a researcher at Amnesty International.

In a report launched final week, Amnesty recognized firms in Singapore, Thailand and elsewhere which have helped provide the Myanmar military with aviation gasoline. After being introduced with Amnesty’s findings, a kind of firms, Singapore-based Puma Energy, introduced that it could begin withdrawing its investments from Myanmar. Others should comply with go well with, Ferrer mentioned.

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