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Focus on Myanmar: Military Accused of Bombarding Civilians

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In an effort to crush political opposition, the Myanmar military is allegedly deploying Russian-built Yak-130 aircraft, a two-seat jet trainer with ground assault capability, against civilians, according to a new report presented by a Human rights watchdog.

Myanmar Witness, a group based in London that looks for evidence of human rights violations in Myanmar, says it was able to confirm through open source investigations that unguided rockets and 23mm cannons were used in built-up areas on more than one occasion.

According to Myanmar Witness’ report, which was published on Friday, “the Yak-130 – a sophisticated, Russian manufactured, two-seat jet trainer with a documented ground attack capability – in Myanmar.” Credible information and geolocation have proven that the Yak-130 has been used in populated, civilian areas during this investigation, according to the report.

One of the more recent events was captured on video and posted on Facebook last month, in which at least one Yak-130 was seen making two passes and firing a number of unguided rocket salvos towards the ground. In a second video, at least one Yak-130 was seen making at least five passes and launching roughly 18 unguided rocket salvos.

The attacks were said to have happened south of Myawaddy Township in the southeastern part of Karen State. This is where ethnic armed groups have been fighting for autonomy for a long time and where they have been training and helping civilian militias fight back against the February 2021 coup.

The two videos, according to Myanmar Witness, were shot approximately 200 meters from the Thai-Myanmar border.

Additionally, it confirmed a February 2022 incident in which at least one Yak-130 was seen participating in an operation in Kayah State, also on the eastern border with Thailand, west of Loikaw.

“The indiscriminate employment of sophisticated attack aircraft, particularly when employed in coordination with other military aircraft,” according to the report, “is in stark contrast to the means and methods employed by those groups who are viewed as insurgents by the Myanmar military.”

Myanmar entered a state of crisis in February 2021 when army head Min Aung Hlaing overthrew Aung San Suu Kyi’s elected administration. The coup sparked widespread protests and an outpouring of rage, to which the military responded forcefully. According to the United Nations, more than 2,000 people have died as a result of the crackdown, and close to 700,000 people have been forced to leave their homes.

Myanmar’s military relies heavily on Russian weapons and equipment, and earlier this month, Min Aung Hlaing visited Moscow to discuss new business deals.

When Myanmar was governed by a civilian government, Russia sent 12 aircraft between 2015 and 2019. However, Myanmar Witness said that six additional jets were unveiled at the Meiktila air force facility in December of last year.

Over the military’s rising aggression, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom banned senior military leaders, including the newly appointed chief of the air force, in March. Additionally, individuals that source and provide weaponry to the air force were the subject of the sanctions.

In response to the military’s frequent air strikes on civilian populations, human rights organizations have called on the international community to tighten sanctions and put an embargo on the sale of jet fuel to Myanmar.

Myanmar has to buy all of its jet fuel from other countries, whether it’s for civilian or military use.

Image Credit: Getty

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