Myanmar used Russian-made planes in civilian attacks: report


Myanmar Witness says open source research shows the Yak-130 is equipped with missiles and cannons.

Myanmar’s military has been accused of using Russia’s Yak-130 aircraft, a two-seat jet trainer with ground attack capability, against civilians as it attempts to stamp out opposition to his rule.

Myanmar Witness, a London-based group collecting evidence of human rights violations in Myanmar, says it has been able to verify open source research several times that used unguided missiles and 23mm guns in built-up areas.

“Myanmar Witness has verified the repeated deployment of the Yak-130 – an advanced Russian-made two-seat jet trainer with documented ground attack capability – in Myanmar,” Myanmar Witness said in its report, released Friday. “During this investigation, credible reports and geolocation have revealed the use of the Yak-130 in populated, civilian areas.”

Among the more recent incidents, video shared on Facebook last month showed at least one Yak-130 making two passes and launching several volleys of unguided missiles toward the ground. A second video showed at least one Yak-130 taking at least five passes and firing about 18 volleys of unguided missiles.

The attacks allegedly took place south of Myawaddy Township in southeastern Karen State, where ethnic armed groups have long fought for autonomy and training and provided support to civilian militias formed to fight back against the February 2021 coup.

Myanmar Witness has geolocated the two videos and says they were filmed just 200 meters from the Thailand-Myanmar border.

It also confirmed an incident in February 2022, when at least one Yak-130 was identified as participating in an operation west of Loikaw, in Kayah state, also on the Thai border to the east.

“The indiscriminate use of advanced attack aircraft, especially when used in coordination with other military aircraft, is in stark contrast to the means and methods used by those groups considered insurgents by the Myanmar military,” the report said. .

Myanmar entered crisis in February 2021 when army chief Min Aung Hlaing seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi. The coup sparked mass protests and an outburst of anger to which the military has responded with violence. More than 2,000 people have been killed in the crackdown, according to the United Nations, while nearly 700,000 have been forced to flee their homes.

Russia is a key supplier of weapons and equipment to Myanmar’s military and Min Aung Hlaing was in Moscow earlier this month to negotiate further deals.

Russia delivered 12 planes to Myanmar between 2015 and 2019, when it was under civilian administration, but six more jets were unveiled at Meiktila Air Force Base last December, Myanmar Witness said.

In March, the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom blacklisted senior military officials, including the newly appointed Chief of the Air Force, over escalating military violence. The sanctions also targeted those who purchase and supply weapons to the Air Force.

Rights groups are urging the international community to relax sanctions and impose an embargo on the sale of jet fuel to Myanmar over the military’s repeated airstrikes on the civilian population.

Myanmar must import all of its jet fuel, be it for civilian or military purposes.

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