“As the Burmese military struggles to take control of resistant areas, airstrikes have become a key part of their offensive,” the report said. The military “is putting the Burmese people at risk, destroying homes, schools and places of worship – places that should be safe for civilians.”
According to a January statement by the Government of National Accord, an underground group that claims to be the legitimate government of the country and an umbrella group opposed to military rule, 460 civilians, mostly children, were killed in the airstrikes.
The Burmese army has defended its operation, saying it was aimed at striking so-called terrorist activities and legitimate military targets.
The army overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s democratically elected government on February 1, 2021, and was immediately met with widespread public protests, which were suppressed with deadly force by security forces. The futility of nonviolent protests has driven opponents into armed resistance, which UN experts and others have characterized as civil war.
According to the independent Political Prisoners Aid Association, a watchdog group that tracks killings and arrests, 2,901 civilians have been killed by authorities since the army took over. The actual death toll is likely much higher because the group cannot easily verify casualties in remote locations and combat zones.
The army, which has long fought ethnic minority rebel groups fighting for greater autonomy in border areas, is now finding its strength stretched thin as it also battles former pro-democracy guerrillas in the heart of Myanmar.
In many cases, ethnic rebels have formed alliances with pro-democracy guerrillas in the loosely organized armed factions of the Government of National Accord. They have effectively denied the junta control over large swathes of the country, undermining its claims of legitimacy. But they lack the resources to deliver the coup de grace on the battlefield.
Christina Fink, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University, told a Jan. 19 conference that while the military is demoralized and has lost control of many parts of the country, it is increasingly using Air power is a major challenge for the Resistance Movement.Webinar Presented by the Stimson Center Think Tank in Washington, DC
She said the military has air capabilities that it didn’t have 20 years ago.
“They’ve been able to buy aircraft from Russia and China. They’ve been able to get training in Russia, for example, and are now using that training to great effect,” Fink said.
Members of Free Burma Rangers, a humanitarian aid group that provides hands-on medical aid to ethnic minority villagers in Myanmar’s border region, were among the few outside witnesses who were able to see Myanmar jet fighter jets drop two bombs in an airstrike Impacts On January 12, a bomb attack occurred in Lihua Village in northern Kayin State. They observed the bombing from a distance and rushed to the village to provide assistance.
“Bombs destroyed two churches and schools, among other buildings,” the Rangers said in an account distributed to their supporters.
The victims included a 3-year-old child and her mother, a Catholic deacon, another priest and a villager who helped in the church. “He was blown to pieces by the explosion, leaving only his stumps.”
David Eubank, a former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and founder of the Free Burma Rangers, told The Associated Press in a text message last week that since taking over in 2021, the Burmese military has come “with speed and force that we have never seen before.” in our 30 years of humanitarian relief work.”
“After the coup in Karen State, we witnessed the first airstrikes in the villages around us, resulting in civilian casualties, many of them women and children we were treating at the clinic,” Eubank said. He has seen Yak-130 and MiG-29 and K-8 jet fighters bombing, strafing and rocketing villages and clinics on an almost daily basis in the last year.
“I witnessed 10 people being killed in different bombings and before we got there, I went to other areas where many more people were killed. We also saw Hind attack helicopters in February. Almost Rockets and machine guns are being fired at villages every day.
Opponents of military rule have had little access to advanced weapons to counter air strikes. Their supporters have urged a ban on the sale of aviation fuel to Myanmar to thwart airstrikes.
The European Union has imposed an arms embargo on Myanmar and banned the use of equipment that could be used for internal repression or to monitor communications. The United States prohibits any business dealings with the Burmese military and its key cronies and proxies.
“These airstrikes destroy homes, terrorize civilians, and kill or injure victims. But if planes can’t refuel, they can’t fly out and wreak havoc,” Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnès Callamard said on 11 month said. “Today, we call on suppliers, shipping agents, ship owners and marine insurance companies to exit the supply chain that benefits the Myanmar Air Force.”