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Myanmar junta deploys armed drones  

News Desk || risingbd.com

Published: 20:18, 13 June 2024  
Myanmar junta deploys armed drones  

Myanmar's resistance fighters notched decisive breakthroughs last year by relying on a scattered fleet of drones in battles against one of Southeast Asia's most feared militaries.

But as the civil war grinds on, the rebels increasingly find their familiar weapons — Chinese-made commercial drones modified to carry arms — in the unfamiliar hands of the country's ruling junta, according to seven people with knowledge of the matter.

“The battle is changing now as drones are being used by both sides,” said a 31-year-old rebel fighter in the country's southeast, identifying himself by the nom de guerre of Ta Yoke Gyi. 

He said the junta began using armed unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to attack the rebels at around the turn of the year, and that a drone his unit recently shot down was identified as Chinese from its components and had been modified for combat. 

Two rebel fighters in other parts of Myanmar also described similar skirmishes.

Four resistance fighters, two analysts and an official from a country in the region who tracks the conflict have described in interviews for the first time specifics about the junta's use of Chinese-manufactured drones that are jerry-rigged to carry explosives. Some of them spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue.

Some resistance fighters have been injured by the junta's drones, said Ta Yoke Gyi. "They've become better at using them."
The junta started procuring thousands of Chinese commercial UAVs at the start of the year that it is modifying to arm with locally-manufactured munitions, said Min Zaw Oo, executive director of the Myanmar Institute for Peace and Security think tank.

He said he obtained information on junta drones from military officials and people with knowledge of weapons production. A junta spokesman did not respond to calls seeking comment. The military has not spoken publicly about its recent use of UAVs.

Regime leader Min Aung Hlaing said last year that rebels had dropped over 25,000 bombs using drones during a major October offensive on military posts, some of which had to be abandoned.