Whoever lashes out sometimes catches the wrong person. Three airstrikes by the Myanmar junta have hit neighboring areas in the past few days: first in Thailand and Bangladesh, and on Wednesday in India. Around 4 p.m. three threw Yak-130– and two MiG-29– Fighter jets dropped bombs on the territory of Chin State in Myanmar, which borders the Indian state of Mizoram, at least five times. Two of them ended up in India.
According to the magazine Myanmar Now, which reports Underground, five fighters from the Chin National Front (CNF), one of the many multi-ethnic armed groups in the border areas of Myanmar resisting the junta, were killed. “It doesn’t matter what strategy or technology the military council uses to attack us,” CNF spokesman Salai told Htet Ni Myanmar Now. “The people are always on our side and that is the driving force for us.”
Since the coup, 2,600 people have reportedly died in junta attacks
Young people in particular have fled to the areas of the armed groups since the coup, after they can no longer even demonstrate in the big cities without risking their lives. The attack was intended to hit a training camp run by the “People’s Defense Forces,” as the country’s pro-democracy fighters call themselves. The junta speaks of terrorists.
Airstrikes are a common junta tactic. In October, a concert in Kachin State, northern Myanmar, was bombed, killing at least 80 people. There are also repeated reports of the use of landmines in schools, churches and hospitals. According to the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, around 2,600 people have been killed since the coup.
But why are the neighbors reacting so calmly to the bombs that fell across the country’s borders? They are probably pursuing their own interests. In Thailand, for example, a junta with only semi-democratic legitimacy rules, and brothers-in-arms don’t criticize each other.
The Indian military, on the other hand, maintains long, good connections with the Burmese in order to secure the approximately 1,600-kilometer shared border – with Russian weapons. India, Thailand and Russia are also among the few countries that maintain formal ties with the Myanmar Military Council. And then there is China, which has also supported the junta so far.
The distance to the previous friends grows
But the mood seems to be changing slowly. At the end of last year, for example, Beijing turned down an invitation to the “Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Summit” in Myanmar, snubbing the generals. China aligned itself with the Asean countries, which insist that only a civilian representative of Myanmar can attend their meetings. The junta is becoming increasingly isolated politically.
There are very specific reasons for the growing skepticism: Beijing wants to protect its oil and natural gas pipelines, which run in Myanmar’s northern Shan State, a location for many of China’s “New Silk Road” infrastructure projects. These include railways, highways and a deep-water port that will connect China to the Indian Ocean via Myanmar.
Since the coup, however, there have been repeated clashes in this area, and the military has not been able to assert itself there either. The underground civilian government of Myanmar, in turn, is calling on the junta’s armed opponents not to attack Chinese investments.
This tactic could pay off the longer the conflict lasts. After Beijing and Moscow recently decided not to veto criticism of the junta by the UN, Louis Charbonneau from “Human Rights Watch” told the broadcaster Al Jazeera: “The abstentions of China and Russia signal that even the few friends of the junta have lost interest in sticking their heads in defense of their atrocities.”