Myanmar transporting ‘unknown’ goods from China via unregistered flights: Report
In a recent report, an Australian think tank has claimed that despite a ban on international flights by the Myanmar military, unregistered flights from China have been landing every night in Myanmar carrying unknown goods and personnel from China, for over a week.
“The Chinese government and Myanmar Airways have claimed the planes were carrying seafood exports. However, the details of the flights in question make that highly unlikely,” says civil-military professional Susan Hutchinson in the report published by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute (ASPI).
“The situation in Myanmar suggests two possibilities for what the planes are carrying. One is that they’re bringing in Chinese troops and cyber specialists to help the Tatmadaw control access to information and the internet. The other is that they’re increasing the Tatmadaw’s weapons stores,” Hutchinson said.
Averaging five flights a night, up to three planes have been making trips to Kunming in southern China from Yangon.
“Two of the planes are painted with Myanmar Airways colours and the other is unmarked. All of them are leased from private firms,” writes Hutchinson.
The report further mentions that although great efforts are being made to hide the flights with actions like turning off their transponders, but information sent via satellite from the engines and posted by airport workers in Yangon and members of Myanmar’s civil disobedience movement opposed to the military coup have posted photos on Twitter from the airport of flight details and nightly arrivals and departures of the planes.
According to Hutchison’s report, it is common ahead of large-scale genocidal campaigns or campaigns to violently quell civil disobedience to see a sharp increase in weapons imports.
She says that it wouldn’t take particularly sophisticated weaponry for the Tatmadaw to continue its genocide of the Rohingya, but it would take volume and ammunition such as surveillance drones as well as simple rockets and area weapons.
According to the think tank, China has been favouring deals with partners from the Belt and Road Initiative, and Myanmar has been one of the top three importers for the past decade.
Kunming, in particular, is home to a significant artillery unit, the 63rd Base of the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force, as well as a range of signals intelligence and cyber units, including one focused on operations in Southeast Asia.