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Myanmar Rebels Deploy Drone Fleet to Push Back Military

Myanmar rebels credit a new fleet of armed drones with helping them retake a large portion of the northwestern Chin state from government forces in the last year.

A total of 70 percent of Chin is now controlled by the Chin National Army (CNA), which fields a fleet of thousands of commercial and agriculture drones, The Guardian reported.

Most of the drones have been imported from China but also from western countries such as the US, the outlet added.

Rebel Drone Department

An army of drone operators — most of whom were once civilians — man the CNA’s drone department, which was raised a year ago.

They underwent months of operational training, including YouTube tutorials.

“The drone department consists of skilled young fighters – some who were engineering students and some who have gained knowledge of drones as a hobby,” The Guardian quoted CNA assistant general secretary Ram Kulh Cung as saying. 

“The department also relies hugely on the internet to upgrade the skills and train more people.”

Recent Successes

The rebels have reportedly overtaken seven towns in Chin state, bordering India, since October 2023.

Around 400 Myanmar army soldiers fled to the border Indian state of Mizoram since the attacks began.

“Drones have been key to our success,” Cung said. 

“The attacks, like those at Lailenpi, have been carried out after months of planning and training.”

Blunting Military’s Advantages

The deployment has begun reversing initial advantages the military enjoyed since the beginning of the conflict in 2021 in the form of a modern air force, according to the rebels.

Over a period of time, operating the jets has begun to financially pinch the military, which carried out hundreds of airstrikes on rebel-held areas, killing thousands, according to The Guardian.

In comparison, a drone fleet can be operated and maintained at a fraction of the cost.

Military Also Trying Drones

The development has not gone unnoticed by the military, which tried incorporating commercial drones into their operations. 

However, a lack of training didn’t yield the desired results, according to The Guardian.

“The use of drones has created a tectonic shift in Myanmar’s battlefield,” associate fellow at Delhi-based think tank Centre for Policy Research Angshuman Choudhury said. 

“They have not completely closed the tactical asymmetry between the military and resistance forces, but have diminished it significantly.”

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