AA accuses Tatmadaw of using combat drones

The Tatmadaw used unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in clashes with the Arakan Army (AA) in northern Rakhine early this month, the AA said.

If true, it would be the first time the military has used drones to fight armed rebel groups in Myanmar.

The Tatmadaw began using the combat drones in attacks on the AA in Buthidaung and Rathedaung townships on January 2, AA spokesperson Khaing Thuka told Myanmar Now on Monday.

Colonel Win Zaw Oo of the Tatmadaw’s Western Command told Myanmar Now that the military is using drones for surveillance but would not confirm or deny their use in combat.

“Of course we use them if we need to. It’s warfare and we fight to win,” he said. “Even children, when they fight, will bite if one feels they are losing.”

Asked for details like drone makes and models or the number of drones in use, Win Zaw Oo declined to respond.

“When the time is right, you’ll come to know. We won’t be able to keep it a secret,” he said.

Over the past few years, photographs and other information have emerged of the Tatmadaw using Chinese-made UAVs, with several of the photographs going viral on Facebook.

Khaing Thuka said they still have to study the source country of the vehicles the Tatmadaw used on January 2.

Naing Swe Oo, founder and executive director of the Yangon-based think-tank Thayninga Institute for Strategic Studies, told Myanmar Now he thinks the drones in question are Chinese CH3 combatant unmanned vehicles.

An online military magazine, “Defence Blog”, reported in 2016 that a Chinese armed CH3 drone was spotted in Myanmar preparing for flight. The blog post included a photo showing a UAV taxiing on a runway with several Tatmadaw soldiers around it.

The post also claimed the military was set to buy an “undisclosed number” of CH-3 UAVs from the state-owned China Aerospace Science and Technology Corporation.

“In modern warfare, every country uses UAVs at least for surveillance, if not combat. I reckon this news is plausible,” said Naing Swe Oo.

Tatmadaw spokesman brigadier general Zaw Min Tun told Myanmar Now in April last year that the army had been using multiple rocket launchers in attacks on AA rebels.

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