MeIn the evening, people gathered at the local Pandal in the village of Moedalay in Myanmar’s Sagaing region to prepare for the next day’s monastic ordination. Just as they started cooking, a fighter plane appeared overhead. Then, the sound of an explosion echoed through the air.
“The jets dropped bombs out of nowhere,” said Naing Ko*, who was just a few houses away from Pandal when the attacks occurred on January 19. He remembered grabbing his wife and son and rushing to see what had happened. His parents’ house, several kilometers away, was engulfed in flames. His mother, 68, was one of his eight who died. she died instantly.
Military violence intensifies
Such attacks have occurred almost daily across Myanmar, and the military junta, which took power in February 2021, has launched increasingly airstrikes across large swaths of the country to suppress determined opposition. ing. Myanmar Witness reports 135 confirmed “air war” incidents in his final six months of 2022, each most likely representing one or more of his airstrikes. high.
“The number of air combat incidents in the report is arguably conservative,” said Daniel Anrezak, deputy head of research at Myanmar Witness. periodic internet shutdownthe remoteness of some events, and the fear of retaliation have all prevented reports of airstrikes.
According to Myanmar Witness, the junta, which relies on Russian and Chinese aircraft, has launched airstrikes in 10 of the country’s 14 governorates. Schools, medical facilities and religious facilities are all under attack.
Other data collated by the monitoring group Acled suggests that the military will increasingly launch attacks from the air in 2022. Its data, based on local media reports and other sources, show that the number of asymmetric airstrikes or drone attacks by the military, i.e. attacks launched out of combat, will more than triple by 2022. , resulting in 312 cases. Each incident may involve multiple airstrikes.
Aung Myomin, the human rights minister of the government of national unity set up to oppose the military regime, said people live in constant fear. “They call them kind of monsters from the air,” he said of the strike. Some have called the now ubiquitous plane a “deadly dragonfly.”
on wednesday to mark Two years after the military overthrew the democratically elected government President Aung San Suu Kyi hopes the public will find a way to voice their opposition to the military government and has promised to hold elections this year. A ‘silent strike’ is planned in Yangon, which means the public will stay at home, which means it is not safe. “One voice, one round. Fight illegal elections by proving your silence,” states the slogan of the protest artwork shared online.
Since the coup, the military has faced persistent opposition from both peaceful protesters and armed resistance groups supported by some ethnic armed groups. the government just 17% of the country – On the other hand, the opposition group effectively dominates over 52%.
But the junta’s ability to launch airstrikes gives it an asymmetric advantage over its opponents.
According to Hunter Marston, a researcher and analyst at the Australian National University in Canberra, the Myanmar military has hedged arms portfolios between Russia and China and has expressed support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine since the coup. , which supports Beijing’s claim to Taiwan and is close to the two countries. “They have relied on their advantage in the air and used it indiscriminately,” he added.
For Naing Ko, the violence of the air strikes has had lasting effects on his family and community.
His father, who was out at the time of the air raid, was hit by shrapnel and is hospitalized. “We haven’t told him about my mother in case he’s shocked and something might happen to him,” Naing Ko said. I will not go to
The family sleeps very little at night for fear that the army will come again. Naing Ko’s 7-year-old son is afraid to leave his parents. “He gets upset as soon as he hears gunshots or the word ‘sitter’ (soldier),” he says.
scorched earth strategy
The military’s airstrike strategy has been developed in parallel with the scorched-earth strategy. December 2022 was a month with above-average airstrikes, with the highest number of deliberately started fires since Myanmar witness surveillance began in September 2021, with more than 132 fires. Such incidents were recorded.
The Sagaing region, now a hotbed of resistance and the center of the Bamar majority, has been heavily targeted by both sides.
Shun Lei*, who lives in Nyaung Hula village, east of Depaing township in Sagaing, said there had been a number of arson attacks in her area. The village was bombed last July and six months later she burned down on December 3rd, January 13th and she again on the 25th.
“Our village used to have 700 houses, but now there are only 100 left. Now we can’t count the list of houses that were burnt down, but only the list of houses that are left.” she said.
According to the United Nations, an estimated 1.5 million people are internally displaced inside Myanmar. The number of people in need of humanitarian assistance soared from his 1 million before the coup to 17.6 million in 2023.
Prominent anti-coup activist Xinzar Shunlei Yi said the international response since the coup was “slow and uncoordinated.” While she welcomed the support given to Ukraine, the same support was not provided to Myanmar, she said: “For the resistance forces in Myanmar, we have not received any support, even from neighboring countries. ‘ she said. “People are being killed in broad daylight simply because they cannot protect themselves.”
Shoon Lei believes the Sagaing region has been heavily targeted due to its resilience. In her village, people now live in shelters made of burnt iron plates and palm leaves. They fear there is no point in rebuilding their homes in case they are targeted again.
“In our life now, clothes, food, housing, etc. are all temporary. If they come into the village again, we have to leave these things behind. I put my bedding in my bag every morning when I wake up, just in case,” says Shoon Lei.
Despite repeated attacks, she vows to defy the military’s attempts to hold elections. “None of us will participate,” she said. “We make sure they fail.”