Myanmar will likely see more civilian deaths as Russia will soon deliver new Sukhoi SU-30SM jet fighters to the military regime that is employing deadly airstrikes against civilians and resistance forces.
Junta spokesperson Major General Zaw Min Tun said on Tuesday that coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing personally inspected the production and testing of the planes at the Irkustsk Aviation Plant during his visit to Russia this month.
“They all will be delivered soon,” said the junta chief.
Russia has been assembling the six fighter jets for Myanmar under a contract worth around US$204 million that was signed in 2018.
The first two jets were delivered in March this year, so the remaining four will likely be delivered soon.
Myanmar’s military has long been a patron of Russian military hardware. Russia is also one of the few countries Min Aung Hlaing can visit, as most nations have shunned him and his regime since last year’s coup, which was followed by bloody crackdowns that have killed over 2,000 civilians so far.
Min Aung Hlaing has visited Russia three times since the military takeover and is a fan of Russian weapons saying “I like them”.
Stockholm’s International Peace Research Institute said that Russia also sold US$247 million worth of arms to Myanmar between 2015 and 2021.
Among the hardware purchased by Myanmar’s military are MiG-29 fighter jets, Yak-130 combat trainers, Mi-17, Mi-24 and Mi-35 combat helicopters and other weapons.
The regime’s revelation of the impending delivery of new warplanes comes as Myanmar is mourning the death of 11 school children, some as young as seven, killed last Friday in junta airstrikes and ground assaults on a monastic school in Sagaing Region.
Witnesses said that Russian-made MI-35 helicopters opened fire on the school, which the regime claimed was harboring resistance fighters, an accusation rejected by local people.
Amnesty International has documented eight airstrikes on villages and a refugee camp in Kayah and Karen states in southeast Myanmar in the first three months of 2022. The attacks, which killed nine civilians and injured at least nine more, destroyed homes and religious buildings. In almost all the documented attacks, civilians are the only people who appear to have been present.
The arrival of new Russian SU-30M jets comes also as the junta is increasingly reliant on air power to attack resistance forces, as its ground troops suffer defeats and defections. The regime is also using airstrikes against ethnic armed organizations like the Arakan Army in western Myanmar, where the junta is struggling to control the region.
On Friday, the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Office called on countries to do more to prevent weapons and revenue from reaching the regime, while urging UN member states to impose a ban on arms sales to Myanmar.
While the United States and other western democracies have imposed sanctions on the regime, countries like Russia and China are continuing to supply military hardware to the junta.
The UN Human Rights Office said on Friday in its report that while Russia had supplied fighter jets and armored vehicles to the regime, China had also sent fighter and transport planes. Other countries like Serbia have provided rockets and artillery shells, while India has provided a remote air defence station.