As Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoigu vistited Burma/Myanmar last week, they agreed upon a sale resulting in the acquisition of six Sukhoi Su-30 fighter jets for the Burmese military. Shoigu met with the Army chief Senior General Min Aung Hlaing in Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma. General Hlaing occupies the most senior position within the Burmese military, and though Aung San Suu Kyi is the de facto leader of the country, she has very little control of the actions of the military.
The Sukhoi Su-30 is capable of both air-to-air and air-to-surface combat, and has been in service within the Russian air force since 1996; they have been utilized in Syria. As of 2012 they cost around $37.5 million to produce, though the nature of this particular deal with Burma is unknown.
The Russian Deputy Defense Minister, Lieutenant General Alexander Fomin, said that,
During the Russian defense minister’s visit an agreement was reached under which Myanmar would purchase six Su-30 planes … [the plane] will become the main fighter aircraft of Myanmar’s air force to protect the country’s territorial integrity and repel any terror threats.”
The current group that the government has deemed a “terror threat” is the Rohingya people in the western Rakhine State. Since the initial conflicts, the Burmese military has gone with their hallmark offensive, using the same tactics they have used in eastern Karen state against Christian and Buddhist populations, and in places like Shan and Kachin states as well. So far, well over half a million Rohingya are on the run and have been forced over the border into Bangladesh. There, they find themselves in much harsher conditions than regular jungle life, as they are packed into refugee camps with little access to healthcare and basic necessities.
The Karen, a people to the east who have also suffered at the hands of the Burmese government, have often expressed fears of attacks from the air. “We can run on the ground from the Burma Army,” one source told SOFREP, “but attacks from the air make things very difficult for us.” He is a civilian, one of many such civilians who have suffered relentless attacks from the Burmese government. They have constant concern over the military planting landmines throughout the jungle, let alone all out assaults on civilian villages — the thought of attacks from the air clearly disturb him and many others.
The Russians have supported their attacks on the Rohingya in the past, despite the outrage they have caused on an international level. The Russians claim to be training approximately 600 Burmese military service members in their higher education/military schools.
Featured image courtesy of the Associated Press.