The Worst Myanmar Regime Airstrikes on Civilians

By The Irrawaddy 18 January 2022

Nearly 200,000 civilians in seven out of Myanmar’s 14 states and regions have suffered from the military launching airstrikes against what the junta claims are “terrorists” destabilizing the country.

Those “terrorists” are the local resistance groups known as People’s Defense Forces (PDF) fighting against military rule, as well as some ethnic armed organizations (EAO).

As of January 17, the junta has launched “at least three dozen air raids” since late March last year in over 20 townships in Sagaing and Magwe regions and Chin, Kachin, Karen, Kayah and Shan states, according to data collected by The Irrawaddy and the parallel National Unity Government (NUG).

The regime has used helicopters, jet fighters and surveillance drones to indiscriminately attack civilians in those areas, in a brazen breach of the Geneva Convention and international law. Both prohibit aerial attacks that terrorize civilians and kill or injure non-combatants and that destroy or damage private property.

In Papun District, Karen State, over 83,000 residents alone were displaced by regime airstrikes in late March last year, according to relief workers on the ground.

Over 40,000 residents of the Kayah State capital Loikaw have fled the town since last Saturday, due to repeated airstrikes and clashes between regime forces and PDFs.

It is the same story in Sagaing Region, where more than 30,000 residents have fled their homes since late November last year as the junta rained bombs on villages during its “clearance operations”.

Myanmar coup leader Senior General Min Aung Hlaing inspects a jet fighter on the anniversary of the founding of Myanmar’s air force. Photo-regime’s website

As well as the huge numbers of people displaced, civilians have been killed and injured in the air raids, which mainly target the areas where PDFs are most active and have inflicted heavy casualties on military regime forces. In total, almost 200,000 people nationwide could have been affected by the airstrikes.

The NUG said that the junta has committed crimes against humanity, citing its air raids and artillery strikes on civilians. NUG human rights minister U Aung Myo Min said that airstrikes on civilian targets are prohibited under both domestic and international law such as the 1977 amendment to the Geneva Convention, which the former junta ratified in 1992.

The airstrikes were mostly overseen by recently replaced air force chief General Maung Maung Kyaw, whose relatives established companies involved in deals to supply the Myanmar military and the aviation sector, according to an investigation by Reuters last year.

With the regime continuing to conduct indiscriminate airstrikes, The Irrawaddy highlights some of the worst attacks.

Three civilians killed and thousands displaced by junta airstrikes in Papun, Karen State

A junta helicopter gunship opens fire during airstrikes against Karenni resistance forces in Demoso Township, Kayah State in late May 2021. Photo-CJ

The first airstrike in Myanmar after the February 1 coup took place on 27 March 2021. Three ethnic Karen villagers were killed and at least seven injured when two junta jets bombed a village in Papun District, Karen State, in retaliation for the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) seizing a junta outpost early the same day. Over 10,000 villagers were forced to flee their homes and the KNLA said that it would escalate its defensive actions to protect its territory.

Two regime aircraft attack civilian targets in Kachin State

Two junta jets rained bombs on a number of villages in Kachin State’s Momauk Township on 14 April 2021, following fighting between the military regime and EAO the Kachin Independence Army (KIA). It was the first air raid on the KIA since the coup.

Junta airstrike in Demoso, Kayah State

After suffering heavy losses in a fierce clash with local PDF the Karenni Nationalities Defense Force (KNDF), the regime launched airstrikes in Demoso Township, Kayah State on 31 May 2021, the first time the township was bombed.

Civilian resistance fighters bombed in Chin State

On 6 June 2021, jets bombed resistance fighters in Chin State’s Mindat Township. The Chin fighters were mostly armed with traditional or homemade hunting rifles.

Airstrikes on PDFs in Magwe

The junta used two Russian-made Mi35 helicopter gunships to attack a combined force of five resistance groups in Saw Township, Magwe Region on 19 November 2021.

30,000 civilians flee airstrikes in Sagaing Region  

Over 30,000 residents from 15 villages in Tabayin Township, Sagaing Region, were forced to flee their villages on 27 November 2021, when junta aircraft attacked civilian targets in a nearby village. The raid came after regime forces were frequently ambushed with landmines in the area. Two civilians were killed in the air raids and three others wounded. Junta soldiers subsequently destroyed houses and motorbikes in the villages.

Air raid on Sagaing Region resistance fighters

The junta used a Mi-35 helicopter gunship to attack resistance fighters in Tabayin Township, Sagaing Region on 6 December 2021. Following the raid, some 120 junta troops occupied a nearby village and randomly shelled nearby villages, forcing 2,000 residents from 10 villages to flee their homes.

Airstrikes in Magwe Region’s Gangaw Township  

Nine civilians including two resistance fighters were killed and over 3,500 villagers displaced on 17 December 2021 by a junta airstrike involving five aircraft on Hnan Khar Village in Gangaw Township, Magwe Region. During the raid, five civilians were killed when regime forces opened fire on a passenger vehicle passing through the village, PDFs and a local source said. Another two Hnan Khar villagers tending cattle were executed after being detained and tied up.

Village in Ye-U Township, Sagaing Region hit by airstrike 

The remains of a building hit by a junta airstrike on Yay Myat Village in Sagaing Region’s Ye-U Township on December 20 2021. Photo-CJ

Eight civilians including women were killed on 20 December 2021 and almost 40 houses destroyed by a regime air raid using five aircraft on Yay Myat Village in Ye-U Township, Sagaing Region. Two helicopter gunships opened fire on the village, while more than 100 junta troops were airlifted in on three other choppers in a failed attempt to seize PDF leaders. Regime forces torched 37 houses, 30 motorbikes and three vehicles including one owned by the village for local affairs, claimed the Ye-U PDF. 500 villagers were forced to flee the airstrikes.

10 villagers killed in Sagaing’s Kale  

At least 10 villagers were killed in indiscriminate air attacks during a clash with resistance forces in Nat Chaung Village in Kale Township, Sagaing Region on 23 December 2021. Locals were forced to flee and some houses were destroyed.

Karen State town bombed for three days

Regime aircraft bombed Lay Kay Kaw in Myawaddy Township, Karen State for three straight days from 23 December 2021, following intense firefights with the KNLA and local PDFs. Thousands of displaced civilians were forced to flee across the border to Thailand.

Airstrikes in Demoso, Kayah State  

Two jet fighters assisted regime forces defeated on the ground by the Karenni Army (KA) and other local resistance groups in a fierce urban clash in Demoso Township, Kayah State on 31 December 2021. Around 100,000 Demoso residents had already fled their homes due to clashes in the township.

Village attacked in Sagaing’s Pale Township  

Junta forces used three helicopter gunships in a failed attempt to arrest a popular PDF leader in a village in Sagaing Region’s Pale Township on 10 January this year. The leader escaped, but several hundred villagers were forced to flee their homes while others were trapped in the village. Over 20 people, including PDF fighters, were later reportedly executed by junta soldiers.

Kayah State capital Loikaw bombed  

Six civilians were killed in Loikaw, Kayah State on 11 January and more than 40,000 forced to flee the town when it was hit by air and artillery strikes, after fighting between regime forces and a combined force of PDFs, the KNDF and the KA. The regime used two jet fighters and a helicopter gunship to attack the town.

Civilian targets bombed in Katha, Sagaing

A building storing rice in Moetar Village in Sagaing Region’s Katha Township burned down when three junta jet fighters bombed the village on January 2. Photo -CJ

At least 10 civilians, including a senior citizen and two children aged seven and six, were seriously injured when three junta jets bombed Moetar Village in Katha Township, Sagaing Region on 12 January. 10 houses and buildings in the village were destroyed in the air raid.

Karen State hospital destroyed by multiple regime airstrikes

A hospital in Papun Township, Karen State run by the Karen National Union was destroyed by a regime airstrike on 12 January. It was the second time this month that the hospital had been hit in an air raid.

Refugees attacked in Hpruso Township, Kayah  

Residents flee Loikaw after junta aircraft bombed the Kayah State capital on January 8. Photo-CJ

Six people, including a child and three medical workers, were killed on 16 and 17 January when two junta helicopter gunships and jet fighters bombed a refugee camp sheltering some 600 internally displaced persons in Hpruso Township and a village in Demoso township, Kayah State.

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