International support urgently needed to counter Myanmar junta air strikes

By Lone Gyi Tin for Mizzima
22 February 2023
International support urgently needed to counter Myanmar junta air strikes
This handout photo from humanitarian group Free Burma Rangers taken on May 3, 2022 and released on May 4 shows a dog running past the burning remains of a building after airstrikes and mortar attacks by the Myanmar military, according to the Free Burma Rangers, on a village in Doo Tha Htoo district in Myanmar's eastern Kayin state. Photo: Free Burma Rangers/AFP

Myanmar’s military junta has carried out over 300 air strikes targeting the civilian population across the country in the two years since its coup, according to the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security (MIPS).

As this list is calculated based on the available data, the actual numbers on the ground are likely higher than this, Min Zaw Oo, executive director of MIPS told the BBC.

According to the National Unity Government (NUG), the junta has launched 652 airstrikes over the two years since the coup, killing 288 people and injuring 377 others, with most victims being civilians.

The junta increased its air strikes in late 2022 and early 2023.

In January alone the junta carried out 57 air strikes in the KNU Brigade 5 administrative area of Mutraw District and Dooplaya District, in the KNU Brigade 6 area.

Over 500,000 people have fled their homes due to fighting in KNU-controlled areas such as Taung Ngu district, Nyaung Lay Pin district, Myeik Dawei district, Mutraw (Hpapun) district, Dooplaya district and Kawkareik township.

On 20 February at about 9:30 a.m., the junta carried out an airstrike on Kawkareik Township, in the KNU’s Dooplaya district, according to a report from KNU-Dooplaya district.

Anti-junta resistance forces claim the junta, which cannot dominate on the ground, will only rely more on the attacks from the air. Thus, preparations are being made for air defenses.

The junta is maliciously and intentionally attacking people and its hostility towards the people is gradually getting worse.

The junta is using its superior manpower and weapons in the battles on the ground.

But as the junta cannot use its superior forces everywhere on the ground and has suffered heavy casualties in fighting, it has increased its attacks from the air. So, the resistance forces guess the junta’s air strikes will only increase in the future.

The junta has carried out airstrikes but it hasn’t gained the upper hand militarily, a military expert told the BBC.

Normally, once an airstrike has been carried out, the ground forces will have to raid and capture the outposts, but the Myanmar junta has not, so far, accomplished this. The junta’s air strikes are intended to threaten the resistance forces and the people and are just psychological warfare, said the military expert.

Nonetheless, it is worrying that the junta is likely to increase its use of air strikes, that have already caused civilian suffering.

Although the NUG has anti-aircraft weapons, they are not enough to provide defence from airstrikes, so it has again called on the international community to supply anti-aircraft weapons to resistance forces

Also, since last Thursday, the NUG has invited the people to serve as air scouts to give advance warning of incoming airstrikes.

Before the junta can be totally rooted out, air defences are urgently needed to prevent the people from suffering anymore.

If the international community which has improved its relations with the NUG stands with the Myanmar people and sympathises with them, it must carefully consider the real situation in Myanmar and should provide the urgently needed air defence weapons for the fight against the junta.