Craven killing from above in Myanmar – Asia Times

Craven killing from above in Myanmar - Asia Times

The horrifying experience of citizens caught up in the unending murder of air strikes in Myanmar is the subject of a new craft show in Bangkok.

The Myanmar musical shared” A New Burma”‘s” When We See The Planes” art and photography installation aims to “raise awareness about the violations of international law” by” shedding light on the lived encounters of those affected, and in honor of those who have been killed” from the government’s extensive and growing aerial bombardments.

The State Administration Council ( SAC ) coup regime’s rising and largely indiscriminate use of air power comes amid the dramatic territorial gains made by multiple revolutionary forces in Shan, Karenni, Karen, Kachin, and Rakhine states on the seven-month anniversary of the stunning Operation 1027 insurgent offensive launched by the Three Brotherhood Alliance.

Nyan Linn Thit Analytica, a prominent Myanmar think tank, tracks the government’s air strikes across Myanmar, a bombing that its fine-point analysis shows has been rapidly increasing in power and reliability. In the first four weeks of 2024, the government launched 819 attacks, or an average of six per evening, resulting in the deaths of 359 residents and the wounded of 756 people.

50 spiritual houses, 38 institutions and 11 health services were destroyed over the same four- month time. Compare this to the overall number of documented attacks in past times: 85 were launched in 2021, 339 in 2022 and therefore surged to 1, 228 in 2023, Nyan Linn Thit Analytica’s study shows.

The public is currently informed of sightings and vector directions from various Myanmar Air Force ( MAF ) aircraft via the resistance Telegram channel Enemy Air Route ( EAR ). Additionally, Hearing publishes useful graphics showing the areas of airbases and the times when several aircraft are flie to their goal locations.

It also has detailed information on the government’s use of certain weapons systems like as 23mm and 30mm cannons, S- 8 80mm rockets, KAB 500 guided bombs and 250- kilogram gravity bombs.

Former MAF officers who enlisted in the Civil Disobedience Movement ( CDM) provided a significant portion of this technical information, but established ethnic armed organizations ( EAOs ) had a good understanding of the regime’s capacity given the steadily increasing use of airpower in Kachin and northern Shan states since 2011 and Rakhine and Chin since 2019 despite these former MAF officers having good knowledge of the capacity given the steadily increasing use of airpower in Kachin and northern Shan states since 2011 and R

The relative inaccuracy of a lot of MAF close-air support ( CAS ) and the lack of forward air observers ( FAO ) attached to infantry units have been making it clear to many observers.

Still, the accuracy of air strikes has dramatically improved since the 2021 coup. The brutal acts of violence include the night strike on a concert in Hpakant in October 2022, the killing of at least 165 people in Pa Zi Gyi west of Mandalay in April 2023, the bombing of a camp for internally displaced people ( IDP ) in Kachin in October 2023, and the bombing of Saint Peter Baptist Church in Sagaing in January this year that resulted in the deaths of 17 civilians.

October 2023, the aftermath of a Kachin internally displaced person camp bombed by Myanmar military. Image: X Screengrab

Both airstrikes against civilians in Tonzang in Chin state and attacks on civilians in Saw Township in the Magwe Region have been particularly frequent in recent weeks.

The MAF’s most recent airstrikes have involved a number of “newer” aircraft, not the least of which is the Chinese-made Harbin Y-12 transport plane, a slow-moving twin-propeller craft that can fly low over resistance forces or civilian targets before dropping mortar rounds.

Those strikes may be less accurate than precision- guided ordnance, but if the strategic objective is to sow terror, the Chinese- made planes serve the regime’s purpose. &nbsp,

Despite not yet being implicated in combat roles, EAR also reports flights of light aircraft, such as the American-made Beechcraft 19 and ATR- 72 and the British-made BN2 Islander.

The Mi-35 helicopter gunship appears to have a smaller presence in some battle zones as resistance forces increase their anti-aerobic capacities, but the Russian-made Yak-130 light attack aircraft is still widely used.

This included crowd-sourcing for heavy machine guns, most notably by the Karenni National Defense Force (KNDF), which shot down a Yak-130 in November following an earlier fund-raising drive.

Myanmar people in exile also staged” Project Dragonfly” to raise money to combat airstrikes. New terms have entered the Myanmar vocabulary: a “grilled bird” is a shot- down fighter jet while a “grilled dragonfly” is a downed helicopter.

The regime’s more frequent airstrikes contradict much of the 2022 theory that the MAF would be depleted of spare parts and replacements as a result of its Russian invasion of Ukraine. If maintenance issues have existed, they have not had a significant impact on operating speed.

Ordnance likewise does n’t appear to have diminished. In addition, the Partisan’s morale and commitment to the SAC cause, including engaging in widespread and systematic war crimes against civilian targets that could one day lead to criminal prosecution, have not, it seems, dissuaded many. Measures to restrict jet fuel supply appear to have had no, at least not yet, impact.

Some activists attempted to portray the 76th anniversary of the MAF’s founding in December as a sign of the SAC’s desperation because it was held in Naypyidaw Airport’s safety and had fewer aircraft than in previous years.

That was n’t clearly the case, though. Senior General Min Aung Hlaing, SAC leader, praised his pilots at the event for their “effectiveness and efficiency” and promised to give them the hardware they needed to defeat the “enemy.” ( Two recently supplied Russian Su- 30 multirole fighter planes were on display at the “celebration”. )

In a file photo, Senior General Min Aung Hlaing inspects a MAF aircraft. Image: X Screengrab

Unmanned aerial vehicles ( UAVs ) are increasingly being used by the SAC’s armed forces at the same time. Infantry units have been using tactical surveillance drones for a while, but larger, more accurate systems are emerging for closer inspection, bomb damage assessment, and target-based artillery targeting.

Chinese- made drones such as the CH3A, Sky O2A and the Yellow Cat A2 are now all in service, as is the Russian Orlan 10E. ( There are also unconfirmed reports that the Israeli-made Elbit Skylark surveillance drone has been deployed. ) However, only the CH3A is capable of dropping mortar rounds, though the SAC is believed to be investing in more weaponized UAC capacity.

Many SAC drone strike videos are uploaded on social media, including on Facebook, Telegram ( a favorite of the SAC and its supporters ) and YouTube. A number of Myanmar military strike videos are featured on one pro-military Facebook page under the heading” Tactics for Myanmar Police,” with some of the clips using the 1970s song” Mr Blue Sky” by Electric Light Orchestra ( ELO ) as the soundtrack.

The uploader acknowledges the purposeful targeting of civilians in a video, saying that” The military introduced the terrorist villagers with the produced drop bombs from DI ( Defense Industries ),” suggesting that domestically produced weapons are being used.

The resistance in Myanmar has a number of drone units, most notably Federal Wings and the hauntingly named Alpha Bat Drone Army. The latter was used in a May attack on the South Eastern Command of the SAC in Mawlamyine, which was initially thought to have seriously injured regime number two Vice Senior General Soe Win.

One of the resistance organizations involved in Operation 1027 is the Mandalay People’s Defense Force ( PDF), which has a reputation for having many of its members as young women.

The Kloud Drone Team and Lethal Prop Weapon Team launched a morale booster after the UAV attack on Naypyidaw airport in April, which resulted in little harm besides the blow to the SAC’s credibility.

The 3BA reportedly attacked 100 trucks near the China-Myanmar border trade gate in Jin San Jiao as part of Operation 1027, which the SAC describes as “drop bombs.” This reportedly indicates that the resistance has significantly increased its destructive capacity. As the September assassination of five military and civilian officials in Myawaddy demonstrated, accuracy has also increased.

However, the post-coup conflict’s asymmetry will likely be the same as the drone dimension. To create increasingly sophisticated craft UAVs with 3 D printer-produced wings, payloads, and improved software, EAO and PDF resistance will continue to rely on pluck, ingenuity, spirit, and purpose.

The military regime of Myanmar is becoming less and less willing to deploy its helicopters in battle. Image: X Screengrab

On the other hand, the SAC will look to foreign-sourced systems, some of which are being developed and used in the Ukraine war, including smaller first-person view ( FPV ) drones that focus on specific targets for kamikaze-style attacks.

The regime’s F- 12 use may be a mark of desperate times for the MAF, or it could be simply necessity being the mother of invention. In several reports, as yet unverified, the aircraft were used to drop rocks, in place of explosive ordnance, onto villages in restive Sagaing, a medieval- like tactic.

This likely supports Christopher Hitchens ‘ observation of the Myanmar military from many years ago, which he characterized as a” stone age dictatorship” despite using high and low technology in the air to halt the rising tide of revolution on the ground.

David Scott Mathieson is an independent analyst who studies human rights, conflict, and human rights issues in Myanmar.

” When We See The Planes”, curated by Krai Sridee &amp, Setthasiri Chanjaradpong, is at Studio Fluff in Bangkok until June 2, 2024.