Myanmar’s military regime is increasingly using air attacks to tackle the nationwide resistance movement as its ground troops fail to contain the popular armed uprising.
A report issued by the United Nations Human Rights Office in March said the number of junta air raids between February 2022 and January 2023 more than doubled from a year earlier, from 125 to 300.
The military regime is also deliberately targeting civilians including women and children in its air operations.
The parallel National Unity Government (NUG) said that around 160 civilians were killed in nearly 200 air raids targeting civilians between February 2021 and December 2022.
The regime mainly uses A-5, G-4, and K-8 light jet fighters, and Mi-35, Mi-17, and Mi-2 assault helicopters in air attacks in Sagaing and Magwe regions, according to former air force captains who defected following the coup.
For air missions targeting areas controlled by ethnic armed organizations, which have anti-aircraft machine guns and rocket launchers, the junta uses multi-role jet fighters along with JF-17, Yak-130 and Su-30 bombers.
The helicopter gunships and most fighter jets used in the junta’s air raids come from Russia.
The following are some of the deadliest air raids over the past two years.
Attack on Pazi Gyi Village
The airstrike on Pazi Gyi village in Sagaing Region’s Kantbalu Township on April 11 is the most horrific air attack so far since the coup.
According to the NUG, 168 people including 40 children – six aged under five, 24 aged between five and 18, and 10 whose ages could not be identified – were killed. Women were also among the victims.
The NUG’s defense and health ministries are providing treatment for the injured, 16 of whom remain on the critical list.
A junta jet fighter bombed the village as around 200 people, many of them civilians, were attending the opening of the people’s defense authority office in Pazi Gyi. A junta helicopter strafed the crowd as they fled, leaving the ground strewn with dismembered bodies and pieces of flesh.
The regime admitted the airstrike on a PDF base but alleged the heavy casualties were inflicted when improvised explosive devices at the PDF base detonated.
Air attacks on Chin villages
At least eight civilians including a schoolteacher were killed when junta aircraft attacked a school in Webula village tract in Chin State’s Falam Township on April 10 this year in retaliation for a resistance attack on a junta outpost.
The Chin National Defense Force raided a junta outpost near Varr village by the Manipur River in Falam on the morning of April 10, inflicting heavy casualties on the regime. The junta retaliated by carrying out bombing raids.
Eight civilians were killed instantly and a dozen others were injured.
At least eight civilians including two children were also killed in an unprovoked air attack by the regime on Kwar Poe village near Thantlang town in Chin State on March 30.
The regime also carried out attacks on Pan Par village in the north of Mindat Township on April 17, with two jet fighters killing two children and one woman, and injuring four others, according to CDF (Mindat).
Air attacks in Karen State
The regime often responds with air attacks on mining operations controlled by the Karen National Union (KNU) and civilian villages in retaliation for attacks on junta troops and outposts in Karen State.
A church, schools, and around 20 houses were damaged in a junta air raid on Lay War village in Papun town in northern Karen State on January 12 this year. Five civilians including a two-year-old toddler and a pastor were killed.
The regime also bombed a mine near Payathonzu in Kyainseikgyi Township near the Thai-Myanmar border, an area controlled by KNU Brigade 6, on December 1, 2022. The regime bombed the mine on three occasions in 2022. Three miners were killed and six including a Chinese national were injured in the bombings, according to the KNU.
At least 20 civilians were killed when the regime carried out bombing raids on mines in areas controlled by KNU Brigades 3 and 5 in March 2021.
Airstrike on A’Nang Pa, Kachin State
Civilian performers and business owners were among 100 people, including a Kachin Independence Army (KIA) brigade commander, officers and other ranks, killed when regime warplanes attacked a concert organized by the KIA to mark the 62nd anniversary of the armed ethnic group’s political wing, the Kachin Independence Organization, in A’Nang Pa village in Hpakant Township on October 23, 2022.
One of the three bombs dropped by junta jet fighters hit the concert hall, making the A’Nang Pa incident the deadliest air attack in 2022. The KIA denounced the airstrike as an unprovoked attack targeting civilians and the ethnic armed group.
Let Yet Kone Massacre
Seven people including children were killed and 21 students were injured when two Russia-made Mi 35 helicopters strafed a monastic school and surrounding area in Let Yet Kone village in Sagaing Region’s Depayin Township on September 16, 2022.
The regime defended the atrocity, saying the KIA and PDFs were taking children and villagers as human shields into the village monastery, but photos from the scene show only the dead bodies of children, notebooks, and schoolbags.
Attack on Yin Paung Taing village
The regime carried out air raids and airborne operations on Yin Paung Taing village in Sagaing Region’s Yinmabin Township, in August 2022. alleging that Chinland Defense Force had transported weapons to the village.
As junta helicopters strafed the village for hours, troops were airlifted into the area to carry out ground raids.
Junta forces occupied the village for three days from August 11 to 14. The bodies of 17 civilians including two children aged 10 and 17 were found after junta troops left the village.